Press Information Bureau
Government of India

06 September 2004
  Ministry of Home Affairs  

  17:42 IST  

Data on religion as collected during the 2001 Census for the country as a whole and for each state and union territory by districts was released by the Census Commissioner of India Mr. J. K. Banthia here today. Unlike the previous censuses, for the first time in Independent India, data on population (0-6 years), number of literates, category and type of workers for each major religious groups are now available. This path breaking but very useful statistics from the 2001 Census, can be used by all concerned responsible for the development of the people of India to assess the progress made by different religious groups and devise intervention strategy and planning for their future improvements so as to lead a better quality of life.

Out of the total population of 102.8 crore (or 1.028 billion) in the country as at the 2001 Census, the Hindus were 82.7 crore (or 827 million) in number and constituted 80.5% of the population of the country. The Muslim population stood at 13.8 crore (or 138 million) comprising of 13.4% of the population. The next in size are the Christians (2.4 crore or 24 million), followed by Sikhs (1.9 crore or 19 million), Buddhists (79 lakh or 7.9 million), Jains (42 lakh or 4.2 million) and those following ‘Other’ religions and persuasions including the tribal religions, etc. (66 lakh or 6.6 million).

In terms of growth of different religious communities, Hindus showed a decline over the previous decade, their population growing by 20.3% during 1991 and 2001 as compared to 25.1% during 1981-91. The Muslim population on the other hand, grew by 36.0% during 1991-2001, compared to 34.5% during 1981-91. Among Buddhists also there has been a sizeable decline in the growth rate from 35.3% during 1981-91 to only 24.5% during 1991-2001. Also though there is slight increase in the growth rate of the Christians (from 21.5% to 22.6%), there is noticeable decline of Sikh growth rate from 24.3% in 1981-91 to only 18.2% during 1991-2001. Most prominent in the 2001 Census data released is the growth rate of Jains (26.0%) during 1991-2001 as compared to their growth of only 4.6% during the previous decade 1981-91.

As regards the disparity of the absolute and relative number of male and female population in the society, expressed in terms of sex ratio or number of females per thousand males, the Hindus (931) were slightly below the national average of 933, whereas Muslims returned 936. The sex ratio among the Christian population grew handsomely from 994 in 1991 to 1009 in 2001. Among Sikhs, as was also noted earlier while releasing data on total population in Punjab, the sex ratio was the lowest (893). For the Buddhists and the Jains the sex ratio remained almost the same at 953 and 950.

For the first time as per the religion data released on 2001 Census, it is possible to know about the population in the age group 0 to 6 years among different religious communities. In terms of proportion of children in the age group 0 to 6 years, the country average for all communities combined stood at 15.9%, among Hindus and Muslims the proportions were 15.6% and 18.3% respectively. Proportion of child population (0-6) among the Buddhists was 14.4%. However, the proportion of child population among both Sikh (12.8% and Jains 10.6%) are indication of low fertility, more so among the Jains.

The pattern noticed while releasing 2001 Census data showing number of males per thousand females in the age group 0-6 years or sex ratio (0-6) in case of some states is further reinforced by the data on child sex ratio (0-6) among a few of the religious communities. While publishing 2001 Census results, it was noticed that there was decline in child sex ratio (0-6) for the total population as a whole in the country (from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001), the same cannot be substantiated for each religious group in absence of similar religion-wise data in 1991. The child sex ratio by religious groups now show wide variation in 2001 Census. The lowest sex ratio among child population (0-6) is found among the Sikhs (786), followed in increasing order among Jains (870), Hindus (925), Muslims (925), Buddhists (942), Christians (964) and Others (976).

Literacy rate for all the religious groups, as revealed again for the first time in 2001 Census, were very encouraging, shattering many myths in circulation earlier when such a dataset was not available for the country as a whole. The literacy rate among Hindus (65.1%) was slightly better than the national average (64.8%) for all religious groups combined. Among Muslims the literacy rate is 59.1%, below the national average. The highest literacy rate is recorded among the Jains (94.1%), followed by Christians (80.3%), Buddhists (72.7%) and Sikhs (69.4%).

Against the existing popular perceptions, the female literacy rate among different religious groups does not show wide variation. Among the Muslims, for instance, the literacy rate among the females was returned as 50.1%, below the national average of 53.7%. Slightly better is the female literacy rate among the Hindus (53.2%), again below the national average. The highest literacy rate among the females was recorded among the Jains (90.6%), like their male counterparts. Female literacy rate among Christians was 76.2%, followed by Sikhs (63.1%) and Buddhists (61.7%).

Another important criteria to measure progress is to find out the gap in male and female literacy rate in a population. Known as gender gap in literacy rate, for all religions combined for the country as per 2001 Census was 21.6 percentage point. However, by religious communities this gap varies widely. For instance the highest gender gap in literacy rate was recorded among followers of ‘Other religions’ (27.6), followed by the Hindus (23.0), Buddhists (21.4). The gender gap in literacy rate among Muslims was 17.5 and among the Sikhs 12.8. The gap between male and female literacy rate was lowest among Jains (6.8).

The 2001 Census also released data on economic activity for different religious groups. Proportion of workers to total population (work participation rate) varied from 48.4% (among those following Other religions and persuasions) to a very low of 31.3% (among Muslims). In terms of type of economic activity, whereas among the Hindus, 33.1% of the workers returned themselves as cultivators, among the Muslims they were only 20.7%. Of the Buddhists workers 37.6% returned themselves as agricultural labourers, not owning land. Among Hindus, percentage of agricultural labourers was 27.6% and among Muslims 22.0%. Importantly the percentage of workers in household industries among the Muslims was highest (8.1%), much above the national average for all communities (4.2%). Percentage of female workers in household industries was quite high among the Muslims (19.3%) reflecting their traditional association with arts and crafts and such household industries. Among Jains, the most literates among the six religious groups, the workers were mainly returned as ‘Other’ worker (81.7%), that is they are employed mainly in non-agricultural sector.

This new dataset on literacy, and work status by religion, will surely help in evaluating the condition of life and also help in evolving more realistic plans for development to remove disparity.

Parsi population in India – The writing on the wall ‘Signs of definite decline’

The Parsi population deserves an exceptional but definite mention and place in this volume due to their very small numbers not only in India but also in the world. As per 2001 Census the Parsi population in the country is 69,601 (33,949 males and 35,652 females) as against their population of 76,382 (37,736 males and 38,646 females) in the 1991 census. This is a clear visible but extremely unfortunate decline of a rich civilization of Zoroastrians and its people. It is apparent from 2001 Census results that urgent and drastic interventions are required by all concerned including possibly by the government and definitely the Parsi community leaders to ensure survival of Parsi population in India. Fertility improvement innovative initiatives rather than fertility control measures adopted by the community so far are possibly the need of the hour before it reaches a point of no return. It is expected that this loud and clear message from 2001 census results awakens the country and the Parsi community from the deep slumber it is possibly in and have a beneficial effect for them.