Introduction:- The people are important to develop the economy and society. The people make and use resources and are themselves resources with varying quality. Population is the pivotal element in social studies. It is the point of reference from which all other elements are observed and from which they derive significance and meaning. ‘Resources’, ‘calamities’ and ‘disasters’ are all meaningful only in relation to human beings. Human beings are producers and consumers of earth’s resources. Therefore, it is important to know how many people are there in a country, where do they live, how and why their numbers are increasing and what are their characteristics. The census of India provides us with information regarding the population of our country.
We are primarily concerned with three major questions about the population:
(i) Population size and distribution:- How many people are there and where are they located?
(ii) Population growth and processes of population change: How has the population grown and changed through time?
(iii) Characteristics or qualities of the population:- What are their age, sexcomposition, literacy levels, occupational structure and health conditions?
POPULATION SIZE AND DISTRIBUTION
India’s Population Size and Distribution by Numbers
India’s population as on March 2001 stood at 1,028 million, which account for 16.7 per cent of the world’s population. These 1.02 billion people are unevenly distributed over our country’s vast area of 3.28 million square km, which accounts for 2.4 per cent of the world’s area. The 2001 Census data reveals that Uttar Pradesh with a population size of 166 million people is the most populous state of India. Uttar Pradesh accounts for about 16 per cent of the country’s population. On the other hand, the Himalayan state Sikkim has a population of just about 0.5 million and Lakshadweep has only 60 thousand people. Almost half of India’s population lives in just five states. These are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh. Rajasthan, the biggest state in terms of area, has only 5.5 per cent of the total population of India.
India’s share of Population & Area in the world
India’s Population Distribution by Density
Population density provides a better picture of the uneven distribution. Population density is calculated as the number of persons per unit area. India is one of the most densely populated countries of the world. The population density of India in the year 2001 was 324 persons per sq km. Densities vary from 904 persons per sq km in West Bengal to only 13 persons per sq km in Arunachal Pradesh.
POPULATION GROWTH AND PROCESSES OF POPULATION CHANGE:-
Population is a dynamic phenomenon. The numbers, distribution and composition of the population are constantly changing. This is the influence of the interaction of the three processes, namely-births, deaths and migrations.
Growth of population refers to the change in the number of inhabitants of a country/territory during a specific period of time, say during the last ten years. Such a change can be expressed in two ways: in terms of absolute numbers and in terms of percentage change per year. The absolute numbers added each year or decade is the magnitude of increase. The rate or the pace of population increase is the other important aspect. It is studied in per cent per annum, e.g. a rate of increase of 2 per cent per annum means that in a given year, there was an increase of two persons for every 100 persons in the base population. This is referred to as the annual growth rate. India’s population has been steadily increasing from 361 million in 1951 to 1028 million in 2001.
The Magnitude and rate of India’s Population growth
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Processes of Population Change/Growth
There are three main processes of change of population : birth rates, death rates and migration. The natural increase of population is the difference between birth rates and death rates.
Birth rate is the number of live births per thousand persons in a year. It is a major component of growth because in India, birth rates have always been higher than death rates.
Death rate is the number of deaths per thousand persons in a year. The main cause of the rate of growth of the Indian population has been the rapid decline in death rates. Till 1980, high birth rates and declining death rates led to a large difference between birth rates and death rates resulting in higher rates of population growth.
The third component of population growth is migration.
Migration is the movement of people across regions and territories. Migration can be internal (within the country) or international (between the countries). Internal migration does not change the size of the population, but influences the distribution of population within the nation. Migration plays a very significant role in changing the composition and distribution of population. In India, most migrations have been from rural to urban areas because of the “push” factor in rural areas. These are adverse conditions of poverty and unemployment in the rural areas and the “pull” of the city in terms of increased employment opportunities and better living conditions. Migration is an important determinant of population change. It changes not only the population size but also the population composition of urban and rural populations in terms of age and sex composition. In India, the rural-urban migration has resulted in a steady increase in the percentage of population in cities and towns. The urban population has increased from 17.29 per cent of the total population in 1951 to 27.78 per cent in 2001. There has been a significant increase in the number of ‘million plus cities’ from 23 to 35 in just one decade i.e. 1991 to 2001.
The age composition of a population refers to the number of people in different age groups in a country. It is one of the most basic characteristics of a population.
The population of a nation is generally grouped into three broad categories:
Children (generally below 15 years): They are economically unproductive and need to be provided with food, clothing, education and medical care.
Working Age (15-59 years): They are economically productive and biologically reproductive. They comprise the working population.
Aged (Above 59 years): They can be economically productive though they and may have retired. They may be working voluntarily but they are not available for employment through recruitment. The percentage of children and the aged affect the dependency ratio because these groups are not producers.
Sex ratio is defined as the number of females per 1000 males in the population. This information is an important social indicator to measure the extent of equality between males and females in a society at a given time. The sex ratio in the country has always remained unfavourable to females.
Literacy is a very important quality of a population. Obviously, only an informed and educated citizen can make intelligent choices and undertake research and development projects. Low levels of literacy are a serious obstacle for economic improvement. According to the Census of 2001, a person aged 7 years. and above who can read and write with understanding in any language, is treated as literate.
There has been a steady improvement in the literacy levels in India. The literacy rate in the country as per the Census of 2001 is 64.84 per cent; 75.26 per cent for males and 53.67 per cent for females.
The percentage of population that is economically active is an important index of development. The distribution of the population according to different types of occupation is referred to as the occupational structure. An enormous variety of occupations are found in any country.
Occupations are generally classified as primary, secondary, and tertiary.
Primary activities include agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, fishing, mining and quarrying etc.
Secondary activities include manufacturing industry, building and construction work etc.
Tertiary activities include transport, communications, commerce, administration and other services.
The proportion of people working in different activities varies in developed and developing countries. Developed nations have a high proportion of people in secondary, and tertiary activities. Developing countries tend to have a higher proportion of their workforce engaged in primary activities. In India, about 64 per cent of the population is engaged only in agriculture. The proportion of population dependent on secondary and tertiary sectors is about 13 and 20 per cent respectively. There has been an occupational shift in favour of secondary and tertiary sectors because of growing industrialisation and urbanisation in recent times.
Health is an important component of population composition, which affects the process of development. Sustained efforts of government programmes have registered significant improvements in the health conditions of the Indian population. Death rates have declined from 25 per 1000 population in 1951 to 8.1 per 1000 in 2001 and life expectancy at birth has increased from 36.7 years in 1951 to 64.6 years in 2001. The substantial improvement is the result of many factors including improvement in public health, prevention of infectious diseases and application of modern medical practices in diagnosis and treatment of ailments. Despite considerable achievements, the health situation is a matter of major concern for India. The per capita calorie consumption is much below the recommended levels and malnutrition afflicts a large percentage of our population. Safe drinking water and basic sanitation amenities are available to only onethird of the rural population. These problems need to be tackled through an appropriate population policy.
The most significant feature of the Indian population is the size of its adolescent population. It constitutes one-fifth of the total population of India. Adolescents are generally grouped in the age-group of 10 to 19 years. They are the most important resource for the future. Nutrition requirements of adolescents are higher than those of a normal child or adult. Poor nutrition can lead to deficiency and stunted growth. But in India, the diet available to adolescents is inadequate in all nutrients.
National Population Policy
Recognising that the planning of families would improve individual health and welfare, the Government of India initiated the comprehensive Family Planning Programme in 1952. The Family Welfare Programme has sought to promote responsible and planned parenthood on a voluntary basis. The National Population Policy 2000 is a culmination of years of planned efforts. The NPP 2000 provides a policy framework for imparting free and compulsory school education up to 14 years of age, reducing infant mortality rate to below 30 per 1000 live births, achieving universal immunisation of children against all vaccine preventable diseases, promoting delayed marriage for girls, and making family welfare a people-centered programme.
NPP 2000 and Adolescents
NPP 2000 identified adolescents as one of the major sections of the population that need greater attention. Besides nutritional requirements, the policy put greater emphasis on other important needs of adolescents including protection from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STD). It called for programmes that aim towards encouraging delayed marriage and child-bearing, education of adolescents about the risks of unprotected sex, making contraceptive services accessible and affordable, providing food supplements, nutritional services, strengthening legal measures to prevent child marriage. People are the nation’s most valuable resource. A well- educated healthy population provides potential power.