May 21, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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ON THE EAC-PM WORKING PAPER

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THE CONTEXT: A recent working paper by Shamika Ravi and co-authors, analyzing the shift in religious demographics across 167 countries from 1950 to 2015, has ignited political controversy in India. Utilizing the Religious Characteristics of States Dataset, 2017, the paper observes a decline in India’s Hindu population’s share amidst a global trend of shrinking majority religions. The study refrains from exploring the causes behind these demographic changes.

ISSUES:

  • Reproduction of Known Data Without Analysis: The paper primarily reproduces data from the Religious Characteristics of States Dataset, 2017 (RCS-Dem), highlighting the decline in the Hindu population’s share from 84.68% to 78% between 1950 and 2015 and the increase in the Muslim population’s share from 9.84% to 14%. This decline in the majority religion’s share is noted as a global trend, but the paper does not delve into the causes or factors driving these changes.
  • Lack of Causal Links: The authors explicitly state that they do not establish causal links between specific state actions and demographic shifts. This omission leaves a significant gap in understanding the dynamics behind the observed demographic changes, particularly in the context of India’s diverse and complex societal fabric.
  • Controversial Deductions Without Supporting Data: The paper makes deductions that the rise in Muslim numbers in India disproves media and UN human rights reports of discrimination and violence against Muslims. This assertion is made without any analysis or data supporting such a conclusion, thereby breaking the authors’ rule of not providing a causal explanation for demographic changes.
  • Selective Comparison with Neighboring Countries: The paper compares India’s demographic trends with those of Pakistan and Bangladesh, highlighting “demographic shocks” that reduced the proportion of Hindus in these countries. However, it attributes the rise in Muslim numbers in India to “progressive policies and inclusive institutions” without explaining the decline in Parsi and Jain populations, which could suggest inconsistencies in the application of state policies.
  • Questionable Implications and Incompleteness: The paper’s implications and the authors’ deductions have sparked controversy and political debate. Critics argue that the paper is, at best, incomplete and, at worst, disingenuous for not fully exploring the reasons behind demographic trends and for potentially misrepresenting the status of religious minorities in India. The lack of comprehensive analysis and the paper’s potential to incite fear or discrimination against specific communities are significant concerns.

THE WAY FORWARD:

  • Comprehensive Peer Review: The paper should undergo a rigorous review process involving experts in demography, sociology, and religious studies. This would help ensure the data’s accuracy, the interpretations’ validity, and the conclusions’ soundness. This could enhance the credibility of the research and ensure that it adheres to academic standards, reducing the likelihood of misinterpretation or misuse of the data for political purposes.
  • Inclusion of Multidisciplinary Perspectives: Incorporate insights from multiple disciplines, such as political science, anthropology, and history, to provide a more nuanced analysis of demographic changes. This approach would help contextualize the data within broader socio-political and historical frameworks, offering a deeper understanding of the causes and implications of demographic shifts.
  • Transparent Methodology and Data Sources: Disclose and explain the methodologies used in collecting and analyzing the data and the data sources. Transparency in methods and data sourcing would build trust in the research findings and help other researchers replicate or build upon the work, fostering a more open and constructive academic dialogue.
  • Engagement with Stakeholders: Engage with various stakeholders, including religious communities, policymakers, and civil society organizations, to discuss the findings and their implications. This engagement would promote a more inclusive dialogue around the findings, helping to mitigate any potential misunderstandings or tensions and ensuring that diverse perspectives are considered.
  • Follow-up Studies and Ongoing Research: Conduct follow-up and ongoing research to monitor and analyze trends over time, mainly focusing on the factors driving demographic changes. Continuous research would provide updated data and insights, helping to inform better policy decisions and academic discussions. It would also allow for correcting any previous inaccuracies or misinterpretations in earlier studies.

THE CONCLUSION:

The paper’s assertion that the increase in Muslim population in India disproves allegations of discrimination against Muslims while attributing demographic changes in neighboring countries to “demographic shocks” raises questions about its analytical rigor. The paper’s conclusions appear speculative by venturing into causative explanations without sufficient data, casting doubt on the advisability of the Economic Advisory Council’s endorsement of such findings.

UPSC PAST YEAR QUESTIONS:

Q.1 Discuss the impact of the post-liberal economy on ethnic identity and communalism. 2023

Q.2 Distinguish between religiousness/religiosity and communalism, giving one example of how the former has been transformed into the latter in independent India. 2017

Q.3 Discuss the main objectives of Population Education and detail the measures to achieve them in India. 2021

MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q.1 Analyze the implications of demographic changes in India as highlighted in the ‘Share of Religious Minorities: A Cross-Country Analysis (1950-2015)’ working paper. Discuss the potential socio-political consequences of attributing these changes to state policies and the role of economic and social factors in influencing demographic trends.

SOURCE:

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/clickbait-paper-on-the-eac-pm-working-paper/article68168032.ece

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