Why is the Indian population growing

India's population grows to over 1.2 billion

India's population has grown by 181 million to 1.21 billion in the last ten years. It is worrying that the gender imbalance has increased and there are only 914 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of six.

At the end of March, the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, C. Chandramouli, announced the first results of the latest census. The Indian population has grown by 181 million to 1.21 billion in the last ten years. For the first time since 1921, population growth has slowed over the past decade. At 17.6 percent (2001: 21.5 percent), however, it is still very high, and according to United Nations estimates, India will overtake China as the most populous country in the world in the next twenty years.

914 girls for 1000 boys

The few data from the census that have already been published also show that the gender imbalance has worsened. Indians prefer boys to girls because the sons traditionally look after their parents and the marriage of daughters is very costly. The killing of newborn girls and the abortion of female fetuses are traditions on the subcontinent. Despite information campaigns and new laws that prohibit prenatal sex determination, the trend has not changed in the last ten years - on the contrary. Among the under six-year-olds there are only 914 girls for every 1,000 boys, and thus fewer than ever since India's independence in 1947. At the last census in 2001 it was 927, and even then the sociologists had rang the alarm bells.

The economic boom of recent years and the growing wealth that goes with it have apparently only exacerbated the problem. More and more citizens can afford and are making use of ultrasound examinations and abortions. The imbalance is most pronounced in affluent urban residential areas.

The Secretary of the Interior, G. K. Pillai, expressed disappointment with the latest data. Apparently, all the measures taken by the state in recent decades to restore the gender balance have brought nothing, he said. The policy in this regard must therefore be seriously reconsidered. The latest figures regarding the literacy rate are more encouraging. This has increased significantly in the last decade from 65 percent to 74 percent.

2.7 million census takers

The census, completed in early March, will provide much more information than just population growth; Among other things, about the standard of living, the type of housing, schooling and the level of employment of the Indians. India has carried out a census every ten years without exception since 1881 and thus has a wealth of information that is unique in the region. In 2011, citizens were asked more questions than ever before. When all the data have been evaluated, India will have one of the most sophisticated demographic databases in the world, Chandramouli explains in an interview. It would take some time to process all the information and the results would be published gradually over the next two years.

Gathering data from over a billion people is a Herculean task. Over 2.7 million censusers were in use in the last few months, a large number of them were primary school teachers. They combed over 8,000 cities and 640,000 villages and interviewed over 300 million households. The action is likely to cost the state around 450 million francs. In rural areas, where everyone knows everyone else, the census was not as big a challenge as in the metropolises, where millions of people live in vast slums and on the streets. Chandramouli admits that counting homeless people and beggars in the big cities is extremely difficult and that some of them may have fallen through the cracks. This time, homeless citizens were deliberately counted in a single night in order to avoid multiple counts or omissions.

According to the head of the census authority, the latest census was a success. In 2001, 97.8 percent of citizens were recorded, he says. In the most recent census, coverage could even be improved. Not a single village was left out this time. Even in the jungle areas of central India controlled by Maoist insurgents, there were no reports of disturbances.

With such a degree of coverage, the census in the emerging country of India is about as reliable as that in Great Britain, the country of the former colonial rulers. Given the sheer size of India and the dozen of languages ​​spoken here, this is impressive. Technological developments have simplified data collection. The questionnaires will continue to be filled out by hand. However, the acquisition of the data has become much easier in the meantime, as the basic information can now be scanned.

Modest success

Poonam Muttreja, head of the renowned non-governmental organization Population Foundation of India, believes the census is extremely important. In such a huge, heterogeneous country, it is necessary to regularly feel the pulse of the population, she says. Social scientists and politicians were waiting eagerly for the detailed evaluation of the questionnaires, because it would also provide information on the development successes over the past ten years.

India has seen impressive economic growth over the past decade and the government has launched multi-billion dollar poverty reduction programs. Citizens' answers to questions such as "Do you have access to clean drinking water or sanitary facilities?" and "Have you ever visited a doctor or a hospital?" will show, according to Poonam Muttreja, whether something has been achieved in social policy. The head of the Population Foundation is rather pessimistic. The census is likely to reveal the shameful truth that despite economic growth of nine percent, most Indians still have no access to toilets, she fears.