(Study Material for IPS LCE) Socio Economic Development in India: Census of India 2011: Some Highlights

Important Materials on Socio Economic Development in
India for IPS LCE Examination
Census of India 2011: Some Highlights

Courtesy: Ministry of Information
and Broadcasting publication division

Census of India 2011: Some

The Indian census is a remarkable administrative feat. Census
2011 was the largest such exercise in the world. Our census history goes back to
1872 when although a census was conducted, it is not regarded as a regular
census as it was not conducted at the same time. Since 1881 India has conducted
decennial censuses without any interruption. We should be proud of our census.
China conducted a census in 2010 but in terms of scope, coverage and
comprehensiveness our census questionnaires go much beyond a headcount. Granted,
China’s headcount is higher than ours in 2011 but there the ball stops. We have
numerous tables on the demographic, social and economic life of the people in
this country of great demographic diversity. The first step in the 2011 census
was conducting houselisting in 2010 in every village, town and city in India.
Along with it a Housing census was also conducted. The questionnaire had as many
as 35 questions and collected valuable data. The enumeration of households took
place from February 9 to 28, 2011 and the provisional results were declared
towards the end of March 2011. In fact a printed monograph running into 189
pages was available for the general reader, apart from the website.

Paper 1 of Census 2011 on Provisional Population Totals was
released by Dr. C. Chandramouli, Registrar General and Census Commissioner of
India. In this brief article, I shall give some highlights. But before I do so,
I would like to make a comment on the format of data presentation. Usually, all
the 35 states are put in an alphabetical order and so also the Union Territories
(UTs). In an earlier case, the states and UTs were presented as per geographical
regions. This again was not user-friendly.

Table. Population size, Growth rate and Sex Ratio, 2011

India/State/Union Territory


Percent of India’s Pop

Decadal growth rate

Sex ratio (females per 1000 males)

Uttar Pradesh 199,581,477 16.49 20.09  908
Maharashtra 112,372,972 9.29 15.99 925
Bihar 103,804,637 8.58 25.07 916
West Bengal 91,347,736 7.55 13.93 947
Andhra Pradesh 84,665,533 7.00 11.1 992
Madhya Pradesh 72,597,565 6.00 20.3 930
Tamil Nadu 72,138,958 5.96 15.6 995
Rajasthan 68,621,012 5.67  21.44 926
Karnataka 61,130,704 5.05 15.67 968
Gujarat 60,383,628 4.99 19.17 918
Orissa 41,947,358 3.47 13.97 978
Kerala 33,387,677 2.76 4.86 1,084
Jharkhand 32,966,238 2.72 22.34 947
Assam 31,169,272 2.58 16.93 954
Punjab 27,704,236 2.29 13.73 893
Chhattisgarh 25,540,196 2.11 22.59 991
Haryana 25,353,081 2.09 19.9 877
NCT of Delhi 16,753,235 1.38 20.96 866
Jammu & Kashmir 12,548,926 1.04 23.71 883
Uttarakhand 10,116,752 0.84 19.17 963
Sub Total 
1,184,131,193  97.85


  • Among Group A states, the size of population varies from almost 200
    million in Uttar Pradesh to 10 million in Uttarakhand.

  • This implies that U.P. has 16.5 per cent of India’s population while
    Uttarakhand which is an off-shoot of U.P. claims only 0.8 per cent.

  • There are wide variations in the decadal growth rate of population.
    Bihar has a growth rate of 25.1 per cent during 2001-11 in the Group A
    states while the growth rate in Kerala is only 4.9 per cent.

  • Among Group B states, Meghalaya has the highest growth rate (27 %) while
    Nagaland has a negative growth rate (-0.5%). This is because the 2001 census
    was messed up. Excluding Nagaland, the lowest growth rate was is Goa (8.2%).

  • Among Group C states, the highest growth rate was in Dadra & Nagar
    Haveli UT (55.5%) while the lowest growth rate was in Lakshadweep UT (6.2%).

  • The figures show the incredible demographic diversity of India. It
    follows therefore that there cannot be one population policy for the whole
    country. Population policies have to be state and region specific.

  • The same story is repeated when we take a good look at literacy figures.
    Kerala has the highest literacy rate, both for males (96%) and females
    (92%). At the other end is Bihar where the male literacy rate is 73% while
    the female literacy rate is 53%. It means that almost half of the female
    population is illiterate. What education policy can we then formulate for
    the whole country? The policy must be state and region-specific.

Worsening Child Sex Ratio (0-6 years)

The Child Sex Ratio stands for the number of girls per 1000 boys in the age
group 0-6 years. The most disturbing aspect of 2011 census data by far is the
growing imbalance between the sexes in the youngest age group (0-6) which is
indicative of female foeticide. In short, the girl child is not wanted and
therefore not allowed to be born, thanks to the use of modern medical
I believe that the child sex ratio (CSR) for the age group 0-6 is not the best
way of finding out what is happening to the girl child. A better method will be
to calculate the number of girls per 1000 boys at birth. But this assumes a good
system of registration of births and deaths. In spite of the legal provision for
compulsory registration of births, very few people care to register births of
children, especially of girls. This is because some people think that if there
is a government record of their sons, whatever the property they have will be
passed on to their sons, which is a mistaken notion.
The CSR has continuously declined from 976 in 1961 to 914 in 2011. It should
certainly be a cause for concern to our leaders of society and the government
(see Table 3 and bar chart).

Table. Decline in child sex ratio
(0-6 years), 1961-2011


Child sex ratio

Variation (points)

1961 976
1971 964 -12
1981 962 -2
1991 945 -17
2001 927 -18
2011 914 -13

The figures for variation in CSR are very perplexing. Out of
the 20 big states, only in 4 states the CSR has increased. The greatest surprise
is the jump by 48 points in Punjab and 11 points in Haryana, states which are
notorious for female foeticide. This calls for evaluation of census data and
also field work in Punjab and Haryana in particular. My field work in these
states does not confirm that the rise in CSR is real.
It is significant that in the urbanised state of Maharashtra, the decline in CSR
is of the order of 30 points. Has the urban middle class taken to family
planning? On the other hand, in the predominantly rural state of Rajasthan, the
decline is high: 26 points. It seems that the rural masses do not want girls. So
we have an odd situation where the urban middle class does not want daughters
and the rural masses also do not want daughters.
I have an explanation for this which is bound to be controversial. Nevertheless
let me put forward my viewpoint. We have had over 50 years of government
propaganda about the need for a small family. This has certainly raised the
awareness about the small family norm all over India. By small family, earlier
one meant 2 or 3 children but over the years the acceptable number came down to
2 children.
For parents there are 3 possibilities: (i) 2 sons only, (ii) 2 daughters only
and (iii) 1 son and 1 daughter. The second scenario is the worst. The cost of
dowry and marriage has gone up. We are becoming increasingly a consumerist
society. Greed has overtaken need. One cannot order a small family with only 2
sons or for that matter, 1 son and 1 daughter, unless one takes recourse to
medical intervention or in simple language, finding out the sex of the unborn
child and taking to abortion if it is a female child. The government enacted the
PCPNDT Act quite sometime back, which prohibits such medical intervention but it
is well known that its implementation is very poor. Will the CSR go down further
in next census of 2021?

Courtesy: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting publication division

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