Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: Census Findings

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Census Findings

One of the most striking findings of Census 2011 is: That for the first time since 1921, urban India added more numbers to its population in a decade than rural India did.

At 833.1 million, Indias rural population today is 90.6 million higher than it was a decade ago. But the urban population is 91 million higher than it was in 2001. The Census cites three possible causes for the urban population to have risen by more than the rural: Migration, natural increase and inclusion of new areas as urban. But all three factors applied in earlier decades too, when additions to the rural population far outstripped those to the urban. Why then is the last decade so different? While valid in themselves, these factors cannot fully explain this huge urban increase. More so in a census in which the decadal growth percentage of population records the sharpest decline since Indias independence.

Take the 2001 Census. It showed us that the rural population had grown by more than 113 million since 1991. And the urban by over 68 million. So rural India had added 45 million people more than urban. In 2011, urban Indias increase was greater than that of rural Indias by nearly half a million, a huge change. The story behind the numbers of the 2011 Census speaks of the tragedy: The collapse of millions of livelihoods in agriculture and its related occupations. And the ongoing, despair driven exodus that this sparked in the countryside.

Neither the Census nor the National Sample Survey is geared to capture the complexity of Indias migrations. A migrant in the Census is someone counted at a place other than his or her last place of residence. This records a single move not multiple migrations. So it sees only the tip of the mobility iceberg, missing footloose migrations altogether. What we do know from Census 2001 is of the flight from agriculture. Between 1991 and 2001, over seven million people for whom cultivation was the main livelihood, quit farming.

We also get an extraordinary picture when viewing what demographers call the Urban rural growth differential. The URGD is simply the difference between the rates at which rural and urban populations expanded in each decade. It is also a rough and ready index of the extent of rural urban migrations. The URGD in the 2011 Census is 19.8, the highest in 30 years.

The other factor cited by the current Census for the turnaround is interesting. Inclusion of new areas under Urban. The number of statutory towns has gone up by a mere 241 since 2001. Compare that with the preceding decade when they rose by 813, or more than three times that number (A Statutory town is an urban unit with a municipality, corporation, cantonment board or notified town area committee.) .

There is, however, a boom in the number of Census towns. In the decade 1991 2001, Census towns actually declined from 1,702 to 1,361. In the 2011 Census, they nearly tripled to 3894. A Census town is a village or other unit declared as a town when: Its population crosses 5,000; when the number of male workers in agriculture falls to less than 25 per cent of the total; and where population density is at least 400 per square kilometre.

At the very least, this means the male workforce in agriculture has collapsed in thousands of villages, falling to less than a quarter of all workers.

Among the many forms of gender inequality, perhaps the most insidious is the one related to the sex ratio. India ranks high among countries having an adverse sex ratio, with fewer women than men. The 2011 Census revealed a small improvement in the overall sex ratio, from 932.91 females for every 1000 males (in 2001) to 940.27, but a steep fall in ratio for the 0 − 6 age group, from 927.31 to 914.23. Now the World Bank s World Development Report 2012 has come up with more shaming numbers.

After China, India has the highest number of missing girls at birth, that is, the numbers that should have been born in keeping with the average world sex ratio at birth. It is small consolation that in India, the number of girls missing at age zero has come down marginally since 1990.

The report, titled Gender Equality and Development, notes that were it not for these two countries, an additional 1.2 million girls would have been born in the world (1 million in China alone) . In both countries, the son preference a clear cultural preference for boys combining with the easy availability of technology to discover the sex of the foetus has resulted in sex selective abortions, a phenomenon Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen terms natal inequality. The high numbers in India show that attempts to tackle female foeticide through a ban on sex determination tests, imposed under the Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, have been largely ineffective.

China and India also account for the highest excess female mortality after birth, that is, the numbers of girls and women who die prematurely. The disproportionate mortality of girls during infancy and early childhood is the result of discrimination and a lack of access to water, sanitation, and health facilities. In India and some other countries, complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the cause of excess deaths of women in the reproductive age.

The World Bank report makes the telling point that despite stellar economic growth in recent years, maternal mortality in India is almost six times the rate in Sri Lanka. On the other hand, in sub

Saharan Africa, which accounts for 1.1 million missing women a majority of them in the reproductive age group the report notes the dramatic impact of HIV/AIDS on the increase from about 639,000 in 1990.

From these and other numbers presented by the report, it is clear that, while more women are getting educated and entering the labour force, the gender gap stubbornly persists in vital domains. These gaps cannot be addressed unless it is first realised that gender inequality is not a women s issue and that it affects the well being of both men and women.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India