Current Census figures indicate Kerala will record a negative population growth in 2021, a first in India.
The trend will be followed up by Tamil Nadu in 2031, Maharashtra in 2041 and Uttar Pradesh in 2051are markable social achievement coming up for Kerala will be the definite fall in Malayalee population in the 2021 Census. According to the final Census 2011, released on Friday, the trend has already been reflected in 12 taluks in the central Travancore area, where the population showed a negative growth rate, a first in modern India.
In fact, five of the taluks — Adoor, Mallapally, Kozhencherry, Ranni and Thiruvalla — are in Pathanamthitta district alone, the only district in Kerala where Christians are in a majority.
Adjacent taluks of Chengannur, Kuttanadu and Karthikapally in Alappuzha, Pathanapuram in Kollam and Udumbanchola, Devikulam and Peerumedu in Idukki are the other ones that showed a fall in total population. And all these taluks are the traditional homes of Syrian Christians.
According to senior demographer K.C. Zachariah of the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, these 12 taluks are heralding a social trend which is spreading across Kerala. “In he 2021 census, we can expect a fall in Kerala population with both Christians and Hindus going down in numbers, offsetting a growth in the numbers of Muslims who are mostly in the northern parts of the state. And Kerala will be the first state in the country to have this social distinction.” In fact, there has been a five per cent fall in population growth rate in the state in every succeeding census since 1971. Kerala had
25% growth rate in 1971 which came down to 20 per cent in 1981, 9.4% in 2001 and it stands at 4.9 in 2011. As per this trend, the growth rate in 2021 will be either static or minus, indicating that Malayalees would not add to their current population of 3,34,06,061 and in fact may go down from this figure.
According to Zachariah, the Christian population in the state must have gone down to 16% in 2011 from 19.5% in 2001. After a tentative analysis on the basis of his surveys, Zachariah suggested that the Muslim community must have reached 25% of the population as against 21% in 2001. The Hindu community should be around 54% against 56% in 2001.
I am waiting for the community wise figures which are yet to be released. But it is pretty sure that in another 20 to 30 years, the Christian population will come down to 13% and the Muslim population will go up to 33%”, Zachariah said.
As per Zachariah’s estimates, the birth rate among Christians in the state is around 1.2 only as
against 1.4 among Hindus and 2.1 among Muslims. In fact, the birth rate among all the communities in the state was declining but it was the fastest among Christians.
To maintain the current population, the birth rate should be at least two, said.
Zachariah noted that some Christian communities like Mar Thoma and Orthodox were declining faster than Catholics. Zachariah noted that the Christian community had the highest rate of sterilisation both in 1980 and 1991, resulting in the negative population rate now.
While the proportion of Christian couples who had undergone sterilisation in 1991 was nearly 50 per cent, the corresponding figure for Muslim couples was 34 per cent and for Nair couples, 40 per cent.
He foresees Kerala’s destiny moving towards North (the Malabar area) where the Muslims are increasingly located. The last demarcation of Assembly constituencies saw that while four constituencies were added in the Malabar area, Central Travancore lost a corresponding number.
Zachariah said that though the influence of Christians would decline in electoral politics due to their falling numbers, they would continue to wield power as they have the largest number of educational institutions and hospitals in the state.
According to him, the decline in population would also make the state more prosperous though it could affect the migration of Malayalees. “Less numbers mean there will be less hands to work or migrate, but it will not affect the income of Malayalees as trends show that migrants are
increasingly investing in business in the state.” In fact, by 2050, unemployment would be unheard of in the state, but most of the schools would have to shut down for want of students.
One fallout of this social trend would be the proportional increase of the elderly in the total population. The state would need more care homes for the elderly and it would also need to spend substantially more for healthcare as well.
In political terms, the elderly could influence the policies of the government in their favour.
Interestingly, as Malayalees are shrinking in numbers, more and more of them are migrating to cities, or some of the villages are fast becoming towns. In fact, the state has a high urbanisation rate of over 80 per cent. It has now 520 towns as against 159 at the start of the century.