India’s most backward and populous states slowed down their rate of population growth, helping the country register its sharpest decline in population growth since Independence. India’s population grew to 1.21 billion, according to provisional results of the decadal headcount conducted last month declared by Census Commissioner C Chandramouli on Wednesday.
The absolute addition of about 181 million people is slightly less than the population of Brazil – the world fifth most populous country – but the slower decadal growth rate of 17.64% offered hope to policy makers. This is the first time since 1921 that the country has actually added lesser people in a decade compared to the previous decade, Chandramouli said. According to the provisional figures released by Chandramouli’s office, eight states including India’s most backward states – including Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh – broke the jinx to reduce their percentage decadal growth to 20.9%. This is a significant achievement since the growth rates of these states had frozen at 24-25% since 1971.
The absolute number of children in the 0-6 age group also recorded decline from 163 million in the 2001 census to 158 million in 2011, signalling a fall in fertility. But worryingly this decline is sharper in case of females than males. The figures broadly indicate a drop in fertility across the country except in Jammu & Kashmir, where the proportion of children has in fact increase to 16.01% compared to 14.65 in 2001. “It is heartening to see that the geographical spread of the decline is now spread across the country and the “North South” demographic gap shows signs of narrowing down,” the report said.