ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Behind the Population Numbers

This last decade India has seen the sharpest decline in the population growth rate since independence. Although in absolute numbers, we have added 181 million people, the decline in growth rate is heartening. It is tempting to view the products of the mammoth Census 2001 exercise as the key to the numbers game. While numbers are certainly important, the Census figures, even these preliminary data, should be read as a comprehensive comment on decadal socioeconomic development.

This last decade India has seen the sharpest decline in the population growth rate since independence. Although in absolute numbers, we have added 181 million people, the decline in growth rate is heartening. It is tempting to view the products of the mammoth Census 2001 exercise as the key to the numbers game. While numbers are certainly important, the Census figures, even these preliminary data, should be read as a comprehensive comment on decadal socio-economic development.

The Census office in its press note has made much of the enormity of adding 181 million people: "...which is more than the estimated population of Brazil, the fifth most populous country". And there is the ominous note sounded on the fact that two of the most populous states, Bihar and Haryana, have actually shown an acceleration in the population growth rate. That the growth rate in the southern states has continued to decline, most sharply in Andhra Pradesh, is to the Census office, demographers and to the newspaper-reading majority cause for celebration. No doubt this will give rise to more enthusiastic dissection of the 'Tamil Nadu model' and its replicability. Equally, the fact that UP continues to be the most populous state, accounting for 16.17 per cent of the population with Maharashtra second a long way behind at 9.42 per cent has been seen as a distress sign.

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