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

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The People of India

The Census of 2011 has begun to tell us what is new and what has not changed in our demographic profile.

There are enough surprises in the provisional population totals of the Census of 2011 to make us wait with some anticipation for the detailed results. The pity of course is that since caste is only going to be enumerated separately in June/July, that data will be effectively useless for it cannot be correlated with information on other socio-economic parameters (literacy, occupation, housing, etc) on which the Census of 2011 has collected information.

According to Paper No 1 of the Census of 2011, India’s population was 1,210 million as of 1 March 2011. It increased by 17.64% between 2001 and 2011 which is estimated to translate into an annual average growth rate of 1.64%. This is a deceleration but a very modest one from the annual growth of 1.95% between 1991 and 2001. It is possible that with the special emphasis placed on enumeration of women, the Census of 2011 has been more accurate than in 2001 and the growth in the past decade has therefore been statistically amplified. Whatever the reason – real or statistical – the 2011 count means that India is now expected to overtake China in size earlier than 2045-50 which was what was earlier forecast. Fertility rates in India have been on a secular downward trend, but the pace of decline is clearly not rapid enough to neutralise the effect of the bulge in the reproductive age groups that took place between 1971 and 2001.

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