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Birth rates in Muslim, Christian families drops

The number of babies born into Muslim and Christian families in Karnataka dipped for the second straight year in 2017, while the number of Hindu children showed a slight upward trend, according to data on births released recently. In 2017, 10.9 lakh births were registered in Karnataka with 9.3 lakh births in Hindu, 1.6 lakh in Muslim and 6,431 in Christian families. There were 11 lakh births in 2016—9.3 lakh in Hindu, 1.7 lakh in Muslim and 7,389 in Christian families.

Compared to overall number of births in 2016, the decline in total number of births in 2017 is marginal (0.7%). However, births in Muslim families in 2017 decreased 5% compared to 2016, while the dip in Christian babies was 13%. In the same period, babies born into Hindu families remained flat with a paltry 0.2% rise. This is the second consecutive year that births in Muslim and Christian families have declined, while those in Hindu families went up. Compared to 2015, births in Muslim families had dipped 7% in 2016, while Christian families saw a massive 42% decline.

Births in Hindu families had gone up 8% that year. The declining trend in Muslim and Christian babies was despite increase in the total number of births in 2016. There were a total of 10.5 lakh births in 2015, which increased by 5% in 2016 to cross 11 lakh. These birth registrations are compiled by the Registrar General of India based on information submitted by the Karnataka government. Prof CM Lakshmana, head of the Population Research Centre at the Institute for Social and Economic Change (Isec), said: “Changing trends in education levels, acceptance and family planning would have played a key role. But it’s difficult to attribute any particular reason for the dip in births in Muslim and Christian families without an in-depth study.”

Experts point out that while the sample registration system (SRS) serves as an indicator to a pattern, it does not delve deep into community-wise reasons. Sociologists told TOI that it’s difficult to immediately attribute reasons given that the 2017 data was released only Friday last. They felt the need for a thorough research into reasons. Prof KNM Raju, a demographer, said: “The sample households are picked based on the total population of the state. So, even as we cannot dispute facts found by the SRS, we must understand that this information will serve as an indicator, but is not the complete picture.”

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