India’s Population Profile

By: Staff Reporter
According to the provisional Census figures, although decadal growth in India’s population has registered the sharpest decline during 2001-2011, in terms of absolute numbers the population has increased by more than 181 million over the decade. India today sustains 17.5 per cent of the world population in 2.4 per cent of its geographical area.
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The percentage decadal growth during 2001-2011 has registered the sharpest decline since Independence – from 23. 9 for 1981-1991 and 21.5 for 1991-2001 to 17.6 per cent today – a decrease of a sharp 3.9 over the past decade’s 2.3 percentage points. Similarly, the average exponential growth rate for 2001-2011 has declined to 1.6 percent per annum from nearly 2 percent per annum during 1991-2001. The average annual exponential growth rate during 1981-1991 was 2.2.

Population Growth Rates

Over the years 1951-2011, the growth rates of population in 8 states, popularly known as the Empowered Action Group (EAG) States, i. e., Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha have comprised of 43 to 46 per cent during the decades 1951-1961 to 2001-2010. Until about 1971, the growth rates in the nonEAG states and UTs was more than that of the EAG States. From 1971 onwards, however, there was a continuous fall in the growth rates in the nonEAG states and UTs while the growth rates in the EAG states stagnated around 25 per cent till 1991. The following decade witnessed continuous reduction in the growth rate of population in nonEAG states and UTs leading to a significant fall of about 2.3 per cent in the growth rate of the country as a whole. During 2001- 2011, for the first time, the growth momentum for EAG states have shown signs of slowing down by about 4 percentage points – marking a milestone in the demographic history of the country.

Article 13 Fig 1

Half of the 20 most populous states (with a population of ten million or more) have added fewer persons during 2001-2011. Had these ten states added the same number of persons during the years 2001-2011 as they did in the previous decade, India would have added another 9.7 million more persons during this decade. It is noteworthy that low growth have started to spread beyond the boundaries of the southern states during 2001-11 where in addition to Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in the south – Himachal Pradesh and Punjab in the north, West Bengal and Odisha in the east and Maharashtra in the west have registered lower growth rates. According to the Provisional Population Totals of Census 2001, ‘It is obvious that in the contiguous four major south Indian states’ fertility decline appears to have been well established, stretching to neighbouring Maharashtra on the west and Odisha and West Bengal in the east….’

Article 13 Table 1

Demographic Transition

The demographic transition theory mainly describes and analyses the transition from a stable population with high mortality and high fertility to a stable population with low mortality and low fertility. A commonly accepted theory defines four clear stages of population growth. India is currently at the third stage with some of the states and UTs already into stage four.

Article 13 Fig 2
The sex ratio in India has been historically negative or in other words, unfavourable to females. A look at the Fig 2 reveals that in the pre Independence period, the sex ratio declined consistently up to 1951 when it rose marginally. In the post Independence period, the trend continued and the sex ratio slipped down for two consecutive decades after 1951 to reach 930 in 1971. During 1961-71 a steep fall of 11 points was seen in the sex ratio. After 1971 the trends were not consistent and hovered at about 930. The present provisional data records the sex ratio at 940, marking a strong upward trend. In 1951, there were as many as 11 states and UTs that had sex ratio of more than unity or above 1000. This number declined to nine in 1961, three in 1971 and two in 1981 and one in 1991. In 2001, Kerala and Puducherry reported above unity sex ratio. Both these States have retained their status in 2011. Also although most states and UTs registered an upward trend, Bihar, Jammu Kashmir and Gujarat have experienced a fall in the sex ratio. A point to be noted is that the states having historically low sex ratio such as Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Chandigarh have shown appreciable increase in the sex ratio in Census 2011.

Literacy Rate and Trends

Literacy level and educational attainment are vital indicators of development in society. Planning Commission has also targeted in the eleventh Five Year Plan to increase literacy rate of persons of age 7 years or more to 85 per cent and reducing gender gap in literacy to 10 percentage points by 2011-12. The effective literacy rate for India in Census 2011, works out to 74.04 per cent. The corresponding figures for males and females are 82.14 and 65.46 per cent respectively. Thus three fourth of the population of aged 7 years and above is literate in the country. The country has continued its march in improving literacy rate by recording a jump of 9.21 percentage points during 2001-2011 (Fig 4). The increase in literacy rates in males and females are in the order of 6.88 and 11.79 percentage points respectively. However, efforts are still required to achieve the target set by the Planning Commission.

Article 13 Fig 4


The Path Ahead

As per the National Population Policy (NPP) 2000 ‘the long-term objective is to achieve a stable population by 2045, at a level consistent with the requirements of sustainable economic growth, social development, and environment protection’. The crucial question is when will this objective be achieved? The time bound objectives set out for the XI Five Year plan has envisaged achieving a total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.1 by the year 2012. However, in 2001 itself, India exceeded the estimated population for the year 2002 by about 14 million and the provisional population in 2011 is higher by about 110 million compared to the target set for the year 2010. It seems that it will be an uphill task on the part of the government and the people to achieve the much cherished goal of a stable population.

Inputs from Census of India 2011, Provisional Population Totals, Paper 1 of 2011, India Series 1.

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