Chapter- 6 Population – India

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:

  1. Population size and distribution: How many people are there and where are they located?

  2. Population growth and processes of population change: How has the population grown and changed through time?

  3. Characteristics or qualities of the population: What are their age, sex composition, literacy levels, occupational structure and health conditions?


  1. Rugged terrain and unfavorable climatic conditions are primarily responsible for sparse population.

  2. Assam and most of the Peninsular states have moderate population densities.

  3. Hilly, dissected and rocky nature of the terrain, moderate to low rainfall, shallow and less fertile soils have influenced population densities in these areas.

  4. The Northern Plains and Kerala in the south have high to very high population densities because of the flat plains with fertile soils and abundant rainfall.


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.

Population Growth

Growth of population refers to the change in the number of inhabitants of a country/territory during a specific period.

  • Absolute Increase-The absolute numbers added each year or decade is the magnitude of increase. It is obtained by simply subtracting the earlier population from the later population.

  • Annual growth rate-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 each year, there was an increase of two persons for every 100 persons in the base population.

Processes of Population Change/Growth

There are three main processes of change of population: birth rates, death rates and migration.

  • Birth rate is the number of live births per thousand persons in a year.

  • Death rate is the number of deaths per thousand persons in a year.

  • Migration is the movement of people across regions and territories. Migration can be internal (within the country) or international (between the countries).

Age Composition

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.

To an important degree, a person’s age influences what he needs, buys, does and his capacity to perform. Consequently, the number and percentage of a population found within the children, working age and aged groups are notable determinants of the population’s social and economic structure.

  1. Children (generally below 15 years) They are economically unproductive and need to be provided with food, clothing, education and medical care.

  2. Working Age (15-59 years) They are economically productive and biologically reproductive. They comprise the working population.

  3. Aged (Above 59 years) They can be economically productive though they 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

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.

Literacy Rates

Only an informed and educated citizen can make intelligent choices and undertake research and development projects.

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.

Occupational Structure

The distribution of the population according to different types of occupation is referred to as the occupational structure.

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.


  1. Health is an important component of population composition, which affects the process of development. Sustained efforts of government programs have registered significant improvements in the health conditions of the Indian population.

  2. 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.

  3. 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. These problems need to be tackled through an appropriate population policy.

Adolescent Population

Adolescent population 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. Many adolescent girls suffer from anemia. Their awareness can be improved through the spread of literacy and education among them.

National Population Policy

Government of India initiated the comprehensive Family Planning Program in 1952. The Family Welfare Program has sought to promote responsible and planned parenthood on a voluntary basis.

The NPP 2000 provides a policy framework for

  1. imparting free and compulsory school education up to 14 years of age.

  2. Reducing infant mortality rate to below 30 per 1000 live births.

  3. Achieving universal immunization of children against all vaccine preventable diseases.

  4. Promoting delayed marriage for girls, and making family welfare a people-centered program.

NPP 2000 and Adolescents

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 programs that aim: –

  1. towards encouraging delayed marriage and child-bearing.

  2. Education of adolescents about the risks of unprotected sex.

  3. Making contraceptive services accessible and affordable.

  4. Providing food supplements, nutritional services, strengthening legal measures to prevent child marriage.