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Bengal’s topsy-turvy population growth

B.P. Syam Roy |

The population scenario in West Bengal, specially the decadal growth rates never come up as a serious issue of public debate for a variety of reasons, the prime one being inclination to avoid harsh realities. The incremental addition of population of a section of a religious minority is like a fluid bomb that has been ticking every second in West Bengal.

West Bengal began with a population of 2,62,99,980 in census 1951 and by 2011 it had gone up to 91,276,115 with 13.8 per cent decadal growth and registering in the process 3.47 times growth since 1951.The density of population has shot up from 296 to 1028, making West Bengal the second most densely populated State of the country.

Beneath this alarming growth, there is another story that has emerged from the recent release of religion-wise Census data, 2011. It is a pointer to an impending demographic disaster. Of the two major religions, the Hindus began with 1,94,62,706 in 1951 and reached 6,43,85,546 in 2011; the population thus went up 3.3 times in 60 years. The Muslims, after Partition started with 49,25,496 in 1951 and had reached 2,46,54,825 in 2011, nearly a five-fold growth. As per the report of the Census Commissioner of India, the decadal rate of growth of the Muslim population is 21.8 per cent against the decadal growth of Hindus at 10.8 per cent in 2011, i.e the decadal rate of growth of Muslims is more than double that of Hindus.

The decadal growth rate is usually taken as an indicator of the changing character of population. This growth rate is accordingly taken up to understand changing trend of composition of Hindus and the Muslims in West Bengal.