Mumbai: The population of India’s commercial capital is growing very slowly in the suburbs while it is shrinking in the old city, the preliminary census data on Maharashtra released on Friday shows.
Meanwhile, the population of adjoining Thane district has grown explosively at 35.9% between 2001 and 2011, as expensive real estate in the city has pushed people to satellite towns such as Kalyan and Vashi in this district.
The shift in people can be explained by two factors, said Sudha Deshpande, a demographer and former professor of economics at the University of Mumbai. First, there is the stratospheric price of real estate in the island city, which puts it beyond the reach of most people. Second, the state government has, since the 1970s, not been keen on new industry in Mumbai, as part of an attempt to take pressure off Mumbai and push growth to other towns.
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The so-called golden urban triangle of Mumbai, Pune and Nashik now houses more than a third of Maharashtra’s 112.37 million people. These cities also are attracting a large number of migrants from within and outside the state, a political pressure point that has been used by the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in their campaigns.
While there has been a modest rise in the gender balance in the state, from 922 women per 1,000 men in 2001 to 925 in 2011, the balance between boys and girls in the 0-6 age group has become more skewed.
Meanwhile, Mumbai district and the suburban district show a huge increase in the number of women per 1,000 men. For example, the 1951 census showed there were only 574 women for every 1,000 men in Mumbai city district. That number has risen consistently, and is now at 838.
Deshpande said that till the 1980s, Mumbai was largely an industrial city with migrant workers who had left their families behind. Economies of regions such as the coastal Konkan were called “money-order economies” because entire villages depended on the money orders sent by the adult male member of the family working in a Mumbai mill.
However, since then, the city has become hub for the service sector. People working here tend to be from the middle class. They earn higher wages and can think of settling down along with families. Also, sectors such as media, financial services, information technology and business process outsourcing attract unmarried women migrants to the city, where they live independently, Deshpande added.
In another positive, Maharashtra’s literacy rate has improved considerably. The overall literacy rate has increased from 76.88% in 2001 to 82.91% in 2011. The male literacy rate is 89.82%. However, the state still lags in term of women literacy. It is just around 75.48%, though higher than the national average of 65.46%. The Planning Commission wants to keep the difference between male and female literacy rates below 10 percentage points.
Yet, for all this progress, fewer girls are being born and looked after. The child sex ratio inks the same dismal picture as the one seen nationally.
It is no longer a scourge of the richer districts, but has spread to poorer parts of the state.
For example, Beed district in the backward region of Marathwada seems to the worst affected by the problem of missing girls. The child sex ratio (the sex ratio of children between 0 and 6 years of age) has dropped from 894 to 801. Another district in the same region, Jalna, has also seen a drop from 903 to 847. In the Buldhana district of Vidarbha, it is down from 908 to 842.
Sharada Sathe of activist group Stree Mukti Sanghtna said, “It was a myth created by the media that the problem of female foeticide is restricted to affluent sections of society. The new data shatters this myth. It shows overall backwardness of our society. It is tragic, but as technology is becoming more and more affordable to the masses, they are also using it for the same purposes as the affluent brethren.
Graphic by by Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint