Kolkata: The population of Kolkata, West Bengal’s capital and an industrial hub until 60 years ago, has shrunk by 1.9% over the past decade to 4.48 million people even as urban population across the world is growing rapidly, census data showed.
The state’s total population rose 13.9% since 2001, slower than the national average of 17.6%, to 91.34 million people, according to the data.
In the decade until 2001, Kolkata’s population had grown by 3.9% to 4.57 million people.
West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said migration from poorer neighbouring provinces was one of the main reasons.
People have stopped migrating to Kolkata because of paucity of economic opportunities, which is the key driver of rural-urban migration, said Abhirup Sarkar, professor of economics at Kolkata’s Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) and a critic of the state’s industrial policies. “At the same time, a lot of people are leaving the city, driven by better opportunities elsewhere.”
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As many as 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2030, according to an estimate by the United Nations.
Graphic: Yogesh Kumar/Mint
In districts neighbouring Kolkata such as Howrah, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas, population has expanded by 13-18% over the past decade—indicating that people from the city may have moved to the suburbs as urban infrastructure expanded.
Kolkata’s population density has traditionally been high. It is currently at 24,252 people per sq. km—one of the highest in the world.
West Bengal’s Left Front government has claimed to have expanded primary education in the state, but the census data showed that only 77.1% of the state’s people have ever been to school.
Though ahead of the national average, West Bengal is ranked number 20 among the states.
There has been some improvement though—the figure has moved up by 3 percentage points since 2001.
Sarkar, however, said, the “quality of education has nosedived”.
West Bengal trails even behind India’s two other Left-ruled states—Kerala and Tripura.
Kerala, with 93.9% literacy, is ranked one, while Tripura is ranked four with 87.8%.
West Bengal has, however, shown a significant improvement in sex ratio. The state has 947 women per 1,000 men compared with the national average of 940 women per 1,000 men.
The improvement is most noticeable in poorer districts such as West Midnapore, Purulia, Murshidabad and Darjeeling.
West Midnapore has one of the best sex ratios in the country, with 960 women per 1,000 men.
“It is an indication that we have managed to clamp down on pre-natal determination of sex through stringent laws introduced in the state about five years ago,” said a health department official, who did not want to be identified.
Kolkata’s sex ratio though remains poor at 899 women per 1,000 men, but that is probably because the city has a large number of men who have migrated without their families, said D. Roy, the local director of the census operation.