Tag Archives | Data Visualisation

A Tale of Two Cities

The tale of Bangalore and Chennai’s growth is also the story of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu’s urbanisation.

The Indian growth story has included two actors in the past two decades, Bangalore and Chennai. Along with their parent states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, they have been the face of Indian progress, on everything from software to manufacturing to higher education.

Bangalore and Chennai are quite distinct from one another, and this post traces the differences in their urbanisation and their respective roles in their states. Chennai (formerly Madras) was designated as one of four ‘metro’ cities in India from independence, having been the capital of a British presidency before then. Bangalore was a more modest state capital. Till the mid-1980s, Bangalore was almost  two decades behind Chennai in its total population size*. Bangalore has since seen more rapid growth, and in 2011 the city was only a couple of lakh people smaller than Chennai.


It is tempting to view population growth as a competition between two cities, but cities urbanise within the context of their states. While both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are among India’s more urbanised states, but it is here that Tamil Nadu leaves Karnataka far behind. Tamil Nadu is the most urbanised large state in India, with almost half its population living in cities. For context, the Indian average of urbanisation is just one third. In Karnataka, about 38 per cent of its population lives in cities and towns.

Urbanisation and the successful movement of large numbers of people out of agriculture is key to prosperity for Indians, so it pays to examine what Tamil Nadu got right.

One feature of Tamil Nadu’s success is its lack of dependence on Chennai for all its urban growth. In 1991, Chennai was about 30 per cent of urban Tamil Nadu. The state’s largest spurt of urbanisation came between 1991 and 2001, increasing by over 10 percentage points. Most of this growth came from outside Chennai, with Chennai’s share of the state’s urban population steadily declining since 1991.


Much of the urban growth in Tamil Naducame from the reclassification of land and the setting up of town panchayats after the 74th amendment to the constitution was enacted. A lot of it also came from other large cities springing up. Today, Coimbatore, Madurai, Trichy and likely Tiruppur all house million+ people each.

Karnataka’s urbanisation, on the other hand, continues to be led by Bangalore. The primacy of Bangalore in the state is paramount, with Hubli-Dharwad and Mysore having a population of barely a million each. Bangalore was over 35 per cent of urban Karnataka in 2011.

Not just that, but almost half of the urban growth in Karnataka came from Bangalore’s growth between 2001 and 2011. In comparison, only about a fifth of Tamil Nadu’s urban growth came from Chennai in the same decade.


This stark difference can perhaps be explained by extensive industrial growth in Tamil Nadu, which is conspicuous in its absence in its neighbouring state. From the city of Hosur giving competition to areas on the far side of the TN-Karnataka border to bustling ports trying to compete with Sri Lanka’s, Tamil Nadu has been more successful in providing an alternative to agriculture for large numbers of its people. Kerala’s urban spurt last decade appears to be similar, with habitations becoming larger and denser, as well as more people leaving agriculture as a profession. When and whether this can happen in Karnataka is an open question.

For now, Karnataka and its politics are still frequently dominated by agrarian concerns. The Western Ghats continue to pose a formidable barrier to the development of the state’s ports, with its largest port Mangalore competing with larger ports at Mumbai, Kochi and Goa. Connectivity – perhaps in the form of all-weather roads and tracks across the Western Ghats and high volume ports – may be just be the most potent driver of urbanisation in the state.

As the Karnataka government is trying to figure out how to split the Bangalore city corporation into more manageable pieces, more people should start reflecting on how to get more centres of urban growth going in the state.


*This is the population of the entire urban agglomeration. Since the Bangalore Municipal Corporation became the Bruhat Bangalore Municipal Corporation in 2006, all urban areas around Bangalore (with the exception of small census towns and Electronic City) have been governed under one municipal authority. Chennai, on the other hand has a metropolitan corporation that is co-terminal with the Chennai district and houses a little over half of the people in the Chennai urban agglomeration. Several other city councils and town councils govern the rest of it.

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In Pragati: Spending for a Modern Armed Force

I write in Pragati–The Indian National Interest Review along with Rohan Joshi on the sorry state of defence modernisation in India:

As Ajai Shukla highlighted in February, only 4 percent of the 2013-14 capital budget is allocated for new acquisitions, down from 38 percent in 2010-11. The interim defence budget announced in February 2014 appears to do little to alleviate this systemic decline. Although a 10 percent increase in the defence budget was announced, there was only a paltry 3 percent increase in capital outlay, with revenue expenses garnering a large part of the increase. What little money will go towards defence modernisation from the overall capital outlay is as of yet unknown.

In the context of the budget, Mr Antony’s admission that there was no money left for the MMRCA deal in FY 2012-13 is surprising. Capital allocation for the IAF was increased in FY 2012-13 by 22 percent, conceivably in order to account for the first installment of Rs. 10,000 crore due to be paid to Dassault after the deal was to be signed in FY 2013.  If we are told that the IAF has spent all but 3 percent of its allocated capital acquisitions budget for FY 2013, where has the rest of the money gone?  The interim budget for FY 2014 has decreased the IAF’s capital allocation budget by about 15 percent (over FY 2013 beginning estimates) to Rs. 31,818 crore.  Worse, if the worrying trend of committed liabilities accounting for 95 percent of the capital acquisition budget lingers, this effectively means that the MMRCA deal cannot be concluded in FY 2014-15 either.
[Full Article: Spending for a modern armed force, March 14, 2014]


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Toilets and access

The National Sample Survey Office released new findings this week from the 69th round of the National Sample Survey conducted in 2012, providing the latest state-level data on sanitation, water supply and electricity access.

The last set of reliable numbers on rural sanitation came from the 2011 census, where we found that about 30.7 percent of rural Indian households had their own toilets in 2010. As covered by The Transition State, this had improved in the previous decade by about 9 percentage points.

Broadly consistent with that rate of increase, the NSS round from 2012 reports that 31.9 percent of rural households had their own toilets in 2012, an increase of ~1.2 percent in two years. What the NSS press release dwells on at greater length is the number of rural households with access to toilets, which is a significantly greater number in most Indian states.

This access is self-reported by surveyed households and can mean that they share or use a neighbour’s toilet, have access to a community/public toilet or perhaps have access at their workplace, especially if they live close to towns and cities. However, the access data is likely an overestimate as there is nothing to prove that every member of the household avails the use of toilets, or uses them all the time.

Nationally, 40.6 percent rural households have access to toilets, as opposed to about 31.9 percent of them owning or having exclusive access to toilets. Since there is a two year lag between the two data points collected (as shown below for all states) this gap can be treated as a minor overestimate.

Toilets vs Access2

As one can see, there is a phenomenal range of differences between households owning toilets and households having access to them. A state like Karnataka has almost no difference, implying that toilets are treated as private, household goods in the southern state. Meghalaya is the other extreme, where the number of households with access to toilets is almost double the number of households who own them. If only access were to be measured, states like Nagaland, Delhi, Sikkim, Mizoram and others could declare themselves to be free of open defecation today.

The chart below illustrates the difference between the ranking of states on rural sanitation between the two measures.

Toilets vs Access

As one can see, most of the change happens in states with higher toilet ownership. Delhi, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh are the biggest gainers when access is considered, with Kerala, Manipur, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh losing the most ground.

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In Pragati: infographic on foreign aid out of India

My second infographic in Pragati this week was on foreign aid going out of India:

4 foreign aid

What makes aid from India different from western aid is that India prefers not to include conditionality clauses such as democracy and good governance, respecting the partner country’s sovereignty. Staying consistent with the Gujral doctrine, the government of India likes to avoid terms like foreign aid or development assistance, both of which are common in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development’s parlance. India prefers to refer to aid as development cooperation or development partnership, and this flows down to the ethos with which grants are given.

Few are asking questions of the effectiveness of Indian aid – both in achieving development goals in partner countries and in generating benefits for India. It remains largely unknown, beyond anecdotal evidence. As the Indian taxpayer starts paying more, the DPA like USAID in the United States and DfID in the United Kingdom will be expected to provide greater accountability. The creation of DPA also provides an opportunity for the MEA to work with India’s private for-profit and not-for-profit sectors that have amassed expertise in a range of developmental issues.

The Indian government’s increased commitment to foreign aid over the past two years is a welcome change, but one that may be hostage to fiscal crises and change of leadership. How well foreign aid can be used to extend Indian interests abroad will depend entirely on how well we choose to administer and deploy it out of India. [Full article: Infographic: Foreign aid going out of India, December 20, 2013.]

The data story is a part of my ongoing research on aid flows out of India, some of which should be out in January 2014.

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Infographic – Growth and Poverty in India

A lot of heat was generated in the Sen vs. Bhagwati debate that took place a few months ago, along with some rays of light. The same followed after the release of the latest poverty numbers. Here’s a look at how Indian states have fared in both economic growth and poverty reduction between 2004-05 and 2011-12.

Poverty and Growth in India - A Story in Five Charts

Gross Domestic Products are the most common estimates of economic growth. GDPs of Indian states (called “GSDP”) matter, but bigger states obviously have larger GDPs. To compare states, one needs to look at GDP per person (“per capita” for those who like to use Latin). It should be noted that GDP per person is different from the average or median income.

In the 2000s, states raced against each other on per capita GDP. While almost all states grew well, not all of them could keep pace with others close to them. The chart below shows you how state rankings have changed between 2004-05 and 2011-12.

GSDP Slopes

Between 2004-05 and 2009-10, the biggest relative gains were made by Sikkim and Uttarakhand, with Punjab, Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Karnataka losing significant ground.

If the same chart is made for how states have fared on poverty reduction, a different picture emerges. States have been ordered below based on the percentage of population in the state that lives below the poverty line.

Poverty ratio Slopes

There appears to be a lot more dynamism in poverty reduction, perhaps because there are several states that are much closer to each other. Between 2004-05 and 2009-10, the biggest relative gains in poverty reduction relative to each other were made by the states of Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and Orissa. While no state’s poverty headcount increased in this time period, the relative underperformers were Assam, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand and Karnataka.

Note that the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Puducherry and Tripura were removed from this list as their 2004-05 poverty numbers were based on poverty lines of other states (like Assam and Maharashtra) and hence the numbers are not comparable to the 2011-12 numbers. Some news stories and opinion pieces had erroneously talked about how several northeastern states had worsened in poverty. Such observations are sadly mistaken.

The two charts from earlier tell us only about relative performance of states – using their closest competitors as benchmarks. However, absolute performance on growth and poverty reduction matter just as much, if not more. The next few graphs examine just that: examining the growth in GSDP per person, and reduction on poverty in percentage points between the years 2004-05 and 2011-12.

Poverty and Growth - States

The above graph shows a clear correlation between economic growth and poverty reduction.Higher the growth, higher is the poverty reduction observed. The only major outlier to this is the National Capital Territory of Delhi – which is so because Delhi started with a low poverty rate of 13.1 percent in 2004-05. The graph also clearly shows that the high poverty reduction, high growth state of Uttarakhand is far removed from all the other states.

On Uttarakhand, many are quick to jump to the conclusion that this high “reckless” growth caused the disaster earlier this year. What we can conclude from data is that Uttarakhand grew exceptionally well in the past decade and reduced poverty equally rapidly, but failed to reduce any vulnerability it had to natural disasters. Had an event like the Kedarnath disaster happened a decade ago, there would be a lot fewer residents, tourists and property to be affected as greatly.

The next two graphs look at comparable groups of states: large, higher income states and lower income states of India.

Poverty and Growth - Higher Income States

When both growth and poverty reduction are looked at in concert, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh come off as the best perfomers, well above the national average on both parameters. It is also noteworthy that while Gujarat grew faster than Maharashtra in terms of its GSDP during the 7 year period under consideration, Maharashtra did slightly better on a per person basis.

Following on the previous charts, Punjab and Karnataka’s poor performance comes as no surprise. Karnataka grew quickly in the early 2000s with the IT boom, and hasn’t quite been the same since. Punjab’s agrarian prosperity also seems to have peaked, with insufficient dynamism in services or manufacturing sectors to sustain high growth.

Poverty and Growth in India - Lower Income States

Odisha had the highest rate of poverty reduction in India of all states, and is among the top performers alongside Bihar, Rajasthan and MP among the lower income states. Chattisgarh grew well, but failed to reduce poverty as much as the other lower income states, and Jharkhand did poorly on both fronts.

Economic growth is clearly necessary but not sufficient for poverty reduction. Our conversations on economic growth have to evolve from “Growth or Something else” to “Growth AND Something More“. What can be observed over each of the last three charts is the absence of states on the “Low Growth, High Poverty Reduction” quadrant. Evidently, there are many states who grew well, but failed to provide sufficient public goods for significant poverty reduction. However there are no states that managed to reduce poverty to a great extent without strong economic growth during the mid 2000s. What has been well known in economist circles is confirmed again for Indian states.

Between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the Indian economy grew at an average rate of about 8.5 percent (CAGR, Compound Annual Growth Rate), and thus at 6.7 percent per person. Indian states were spread around this number. In 2013 the growth rates have fallen to about 5 percent nationally – and there are no signs of going back to an 8 percent growth rate in the near future. It is not difficult to imagine how abysmal poverty reduction will be over the next few years. We may end up failing another generation of India’s poor.

Postscript. There are some caveats to keep in mind, while interpreting the performance of individual states. First, while poverty reduction and growth are compared across the same time period, there can be a lag between the two. New wealth generated can take time to percolate through the economy. Second, GSDP numbers are generated by state economics and statistics departments based on central guidelines. The competence and independence of different states’ economics departments can vary a lot, and it is possible that GSDP numbers from some states could be overestimated.

Third, there are many discrepancies between poverty ratio numbers calculated from NSS surveys from  2009-10 and 2011-12. States such as Bihar show little poverty reduction between 2004-05 and 2009-10, but phenomenal decrease in the next two years. While 2009-10 was a drought year and might have underestimated the overall reduction in poverty, the planning commission needs analyse and provide clarifications on the latest state-level poverty numbers presented. However, these caveats do not affect the overall observation that there are no Indian states that grew poorly but reduced poverty greatly.

Many thanks to Dr. Mukul Asher for discussions that helped shape this piece.

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Surveying Opinions on Scientific Issues

Last week, I wrote a short post on how someone’s combined views on climate change, nuclear safety and GMOs are a good indicator of their scientific temper and ideological biases. Subsequently, my colleague and fellow blogger Karthik Shashidhar ran a short online survey on the same three questions to solicit responses. Survey participants were given five choices ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

Karthik has analysed the survey results on the RQ blog that I would urge all readers to check out.

Firstly, we will look at the individual responses to each of the three questions:

…this shows that opinion in favour of global warming is fairly strong.

While a majority of the people believe that health risks from nuclear power have been exaggerated, the opinion is not as overwhelming as it is on the global warming front. There still exist a significant number of doubters of safety of nuclear energy.

When it comes to GM crops, however, public opinion is largely divided. As many people agree that GM crops are safe, as do people who believe they are unsafe. [RQ on INI]

The survey was designed to be quick and dirty – participants were largely those who found the survey on Twitter and Facebook and essentially selected themselves into entering the survey. Ergo, there are no claims made here that these responses are representative of any ‘universal’ population.

Taking a venn-diagram approach to analysing the survey responses, I was able to generate the chart below. I divided the 5 options for each questions into two categories: neutral or disagree, versus agree or strongly agree. Therefore, all those who have either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that 20th century climate change is anthropogenic come under the orange coloured ellipse, and all those who haven’t come outside of it. Note that the ellipses in the venn diagram have been drawn in proportion to the number of respondents who fall under that category.

Scientific Temper

The largest set of respondents (29 percent) are those who, according to my metrics, can be classified as “left wing”, those only agreeing to the climate change question while disagreeing with nuclear or GMO safety. The second largest (23 percent) is a curious set: they do not think that GMOs are safe, but agree both on nuclear safety and climate change. Without commenting on ideological biases, it is possible to look at this set as a people who are “climate change realists” – people who understand that we do not have the option to burn dirty fossil fuels endlessly, and that nuclear power has a role to play in reducing our fossil fuel dependence.

Some 19 percent of the respondents are those I would consider as being most sensitive to scientific evidence, but readers can feel free to disagree with me on that. About 10 percent of the respondents are classically right wing – the notion that ‘most environmental fears are overblown’ can explain their stance on all three questions.

About 9% agree that climate change is anthropogenic and that GMOs are safe – but are not convinced about nuclear safety. They form a subset that I find rather curious. In a sense, there is indeed a connection between the two topics. GMOs form an essential tool in retaining and improving agricultural productivity in the face of climate change and uncertainty – not just in creating drought and flood-resistant varieties, but also in converting C3 plants into C4 plants, the latter of which are far superior at tolerating high temperatures and making use of increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. It is difficult to comment, however, that  this knowledge indeed informs their opinions.

The initial hypothesis was that asking for opinions on anthropogenic climate change, nuclear safety and GMO safety would broadly give us three categories of respondents: left wing, right wing and those “biased to evidence”. When tested, it gave us four or five major categories of people, including those who disagree only with nuclear safety, or only with GMO safety.

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How much is Water Supply subsidised in Bangalore?

Continuing from yesterday’s post about introducing crisis pricing of water in Bangalore, here’s the real picture of how water gets subsidised for all residents of the city who receive municipal supply.

Subsidised Water in Bangalore

It turns out that a family of five using the national norm for urban water supply – 135 litres per person per day (LPCD) receives a whopping subsidy of Rs. 9,500 a year! A household using 200 litres per person per day in the city – quite common – receives an even higher subsidy Rs. 13,790 a year! Compare this to the LPG subsidy that the same households will receive: it clocks in at a much lower Rs. 2,800 a year (at Rs. 320 subsidy per cylinder of LPG and 9 cylinders per year). While LPG subsidies need to be reduced and its prices rationalised, I’ll leave it to the readers to see how much air time each issue has received thus far.

As the chart shows, even the maximum price of water levied is lower than the operational costs, so the more profligate a consumer, the higher the subsidy they receive. And this is a rather conservative estimate – one that does not include how the city’s sewerage is also subsidised, nor the heavy capital costs that go into building the infrastructure for the city’s water supply.

And we wonder why we have a crisis around water almost everywhere in the country.

Water tariffs from the BWSSB are available here, and this is the source of the operational cost of  water provision in Bangalore.

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In Search of a New Village

The south Indian state of Karnataka has over 29,000 villages spread across a 190,000 square kilometres. Anyone who travels a little in the state quickly realises that there are common village names that keep recurring. Using the Census 2011 village directory for the state, here’s a comprehensive look at the most common village names in Karnataka.

It turns out that the most common village name in Karnataka is Hosahalli – or simply, ‘New Village’. Hosahalli is the complete name of about 108 villages, and forms a part of the name for another 82 (For example, Chikkahosahalli, which means ‘small new village’). Curiously enough, the second most village name is Hosur, which is a variant of the former and also means ‘New Village’. A possible reason as to why this has come about is that as villages grew in size, people might have shifted to an adjacent site and created a new settlement, perhaps a couple of miles from the original village. In conversation, this new settlement would be referred to as just that – new village or new place –  until one day the name got formalised in an inscription or an agreement, and the name Hosahalli or Hosur became permanent.

Other common village names include Bommanahalli, Gollahalli (village of cowherds), Kurubarahalli (village of shepherds), Siddapura and Basavanahalli (dedicated to the reformer Basavanna).

Most Common Village Names in Karnataka

Different words are used to denote a village or settlement as well – from hallis to puras to nagaras. Of these, halli and ooru are of a Dravidian origin, with halli being equivalent of palli in Tamil, while most of the others are borrowed or adapted from Sanskrit. Pura is said to denote a walled town and nagara a town or a city, but they were often used quite interchangeably while naming villages and towns, even historically. Villages are also named after local features like lakes (kere, sandra) and fortresses (kote), as well as after gods and goddesses.

Most Common types and Parts of Village Names in Karnataka

So there you have it. If you are thinking of starting a new settlement in Karnataka, you couldn’t go wrong by calling it the unimaginative, but eminently serviceable Hosahalli or Hosuru. I’ll take them over the Residencies, Enclaves and Gardens that have come up in Bangalore, any day.

Many thanks to Shreevatsa and Mohan KV for an erudite discussion on the meaning of village names, their origins and their use. Kudos to Karthik for suggesting the perfect name for the post.

Addendum. This post drew a flurry of fascinating conversations on twitter and elsewhere today. On popular demand, below is a more complete (and revised!) list of suffixes in village names in Karnataka. You can also download the raw data used in this post from here.

Most Common suffixes and prefixes of Village Names in Karnataka


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Bangalore refuses to turn up and vote

[This post used data from the website of the Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka, which was subsequently revised the next day. As per the revised numbers, Bangalore urban showed a turnout of 57.4%, a full 7.5 percentage points greater than the 2008 assembly elections. This improvement cannot be disregarded as trivial, thus the argument made by the original post is no longer valid.]

In the face of high expectations, the residents of Bangalore yet again failed to turn up and vote in large numbers in yesterday’s assembly elections. With 52.8% of the Bangalore Urban district’s voters casting their vote yesterday, it was only a marginal improvement over 2008 – when 46.9% of the district’s voters had turned up. This is but a marginal increase of 5.9 percentage points, which can perhaps be explained away to a great extent by the simple fact that the elections took place on a Sunday.

Voter Turnout 2013 Karnataka Assembly Elections

The capital city’s voter turnout was well below the state average of 70.2 percent. Curiously, the maximum turnout was seen in the adjoining Bangalore Rural district – at 77.95 percent. The only other districts with their polling numbers in 50s and early 60s percentages were Bidar, Gulbarga, Yadgir, Bijapur and Raichur – something that could be because of the high summer temperatures there.

The map was created using Gramener’s excellent map tool. Polling data was obtained from the Karnataka Election Commission website courtesy of Citizen Matters.

Update. As my fellow blogger Karthik pointed out, the previous assembly elections in Bangalore took place on a Saturday. Therefore, the weekend explanation for a greater turnout could be invalid. Also – while Bangalore as a whole shows a low turnout, it is certainly possible that individual constituencies showed much higher turnouts. It will be interesting to watch the numbers for constituencies with candidates endorsed by BPAC and those with strong Loksatta campaigns and see how well they fared.

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Wahabism, Wahhabism and Salafism

My fellow blogger Karthik Shashidhar along with Narayan Ramachandran took a quick look at the use of wahhabi and salafi as terms that describe a particularly conservative branch of Sunni Islam.

Their hypothesis was the following: that wahhabi was a dominant term used after 9/11, with its use waning over the years and being replaced by the term salafi.

By looking at Google Trends, they found that Salafi was a far more popular search term since 2005 globally, but wahhabi was about as popular a term in the United States as salafi in 2005, with the steady decline in the former since then. [Graphs]

However, wahhabi is a term that can be spelled in other ways as well – the simplest being wahabi. By looking at the Google Trends search indices for all three terms, we get a slightly different picture.

Worldwide, Salafi is a term that is more prominent than both wahabi and wahhabi combined, but wahabi appears to be increasingly in use, especially since 2009. In the US, the difference between the use of either terms is less marked.

Google Trends gives us a sense of the extent of interest in these multiple terms, by examining how often people search for them. But how often are they used in writing? Another tool by Google, the excellent Ngram viewer, lets us look at how often terms are used in all books indexed in the Google Books database.

If one compares the use of wahabi, wahhabi and salafi in all books, salafi comes out as the clear victor. However, these searches are case-sensitive. Turns out that capitalised versions of all three terms are used a lot more often in books than un-capitalised versions! And with them, the trends are completely different. A comparison of Wahabi, Wahhabi and Salafi tells us that Wahhabi is the most used term in books – and it always was. It also tells us that since 9/11, more was written about both Wahhabism and Salafism. And while slow on the start, there certainly is some evidence for how Salafi is being increasingly used in books today.

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