New Delhi: After a year-long exercise, starting with house listing in April last year and the head count in February this year, India’s census office declared provisional population data on Thursday. In an interview, registrar general and census commissioner of India C. Chandramouli explained what the data meant. Edited excerpts:
What are the biggest findings of this census?
The point to be noted is that the growth of the population has come down and it has been consistently coming down, but the sharpest decline has been seen in this decade. When you go into the absolute numbers, this is the only decade where we have added one million lesser than the previous decade. This is a significant point that the pace of growth is declining.
The second is that the growth rate in the so-called empowered action group states, they were almost flat, stagnant at about 25% growth, for the first time that has fallen. So, there is a significant decline in these regions. That is one good sign that has come out.
More significant thing is that the males and females literacy gap has reduced. The gap is slowly narrowing down. The growth in female literacy is about 12%, but growth in male is only 7%.
If you have to take the most striking negatives which have come out, I would say the child sex ratio in 0-6 age population has fallen to an all-time low of 914. The second negative would be the density of population has gone up by 57 people per sq. km... this is going to be a serious strain on infrastructure and the natural environment.
Do you see the declining population rate as a challenge to the sex ratio, because now it is getting reflected in the 0-6 age group?
Since independence, (this trend) has been declining... It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes decades... Demographers will talk to you about son preference, about female infanticide, foeticide etc. The reason we don’t go into it is that we reflect only numbers... Our job is to point out the trends and tell you what is happening in the country.Reasons, we will have to see (in a) more detailed (manner). Studies will have to be done. People have been writing (about this), but the point is that we won’t be able to tell you at this point of time with the limited data that we have.
You are preparing the national population register (NPR) along with the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). But UIDAI has done surveys through its registrars. Is that not duplication of work?
We are also one of the registrars. They have LIC (Life Insurance Corp. of India), SBI (State Bank of India), PDS (public distribution system) in some states. So, they have different registrars for their own client population. If they have done it then they will tell us that they have done it. They will give us the number, we will not do it for those persons. My client is the entire country. So, we would be going as per the NPR, we have covered and got the data already with us. Now, it’s a question of adding biometrics to it which we would be doing in the next few months.
Will the below poverty line census also be tagged with the caste census?
Earlier, we were asked to do only the numbers of the various castes, but in Parliament they have raised a demand that there should be the socio-economic particulars also along with the caste. So, we are working out ways of how to collect the socio-economic information.
Won’t this prejudice the caste census?
As of now, everything is in a fluid state... This is to be examined as to which socio-economic particulars can be taken, how it can be taken...
Census 2011 shows that India’s demographic transition is on course. As the country moves to a younger demographic profile, the rate of growth of population, riding on declining fertility, is decelerating. However, rising population density and a worsening child sex ratio are now posing policy challenges.
A decade of change (PDF)
Census 2011, contrary to expectations in some quarters, shows the pernicious practice of female infanticide continues; and has in fact, worsened, becoming a pan-India problem. Just as this is a cause for worry, there is fresh hope in the census data on literacy, which shows nearly three in four Indians can now read and write.
Gains and losses (PDF)
Literacy: The big jump (PDF)