Resources Research

Making local sense of food, urban growth, population and energy

India’s billion and a quarter

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A table of the 25 most populous districts, in 2011 and in 2013

A table of the 25 most populous districts, in 2011 and in 2013

It would have happened in February 2013, the crossing of the billion and a quarter mark. Quietly, oddly so for such a statistically adept people, the mark went by unnoticed and unremarked.

[Update: Several readers have asked questions about this post so here are replies to common questions: (1) These calculations are mine based on the 2011 Census data and use the 2001-2011 decadal growth rate. (2) The table is of districts, not metropolises or cities, but remember that the metros include district areas. (3) Population figures in the table are for the district total (rural and urban) and are calculated on the overall population growth rate of the districts, estimated for 2013.]

It’s all in the districts really. Thane in Maharashtra remains the most populous district with 11.84 million, North 24 Parganas (part of the Kolkata metropolis) with 10.34 million has been moved down to third place, in second place is Bangalore which has crossed the 10 million mark and is now 10.48 million.

It is two years since India’s Census 2011 and, using the decadal population growth rates (for the period 2001-2011) for each district, I find that in two short years there is some reshuffling in the top 25 districts by population.

Positions four to 10 (Pune, Mumbai Suburban, South 24 Parganas, Bardhaman, Ahmedabad, Murshidabad and Jaipur) stay where they were (Jaipur has crossed the 7 million mark). Surat (6.59 m) has replaced Nashik (6.38 m) in the 11th spot. The next three have not changed – Allahabad, Paschim Medinipur and Patna (which has crossed the 6 million mark).

In position 16 Rangareddy (5.8 m) has replaced Hughli (5.62 m). In position 17 Purba Champaran (5.37 m) has replaced Nadia (5.29 m) and in position 21 East Godavari (5.2 m) has been pushed down two places by faster growing districts.

There are now 24 districts with populations of five million and more as compared with 2011 when the number of such districts was 21. Two years ago the combined population of the 50 most populous districts was 277.65 million. Now, in 2013, the combined population of the 50 most populous districts is 289.09 million.

Comparing the ranks of districts (ranked by population) in 2011 with the calculated 2013 list, Kancheepuram (Tamil Nadu) has moved up the most, 11 places. Sitamarhi (Bihar) has moved up 10 places, Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh) has moved up nine. Banka (Bihar), Barmer (Rajasthan), Giridih (Jharkhand) and Indore (Madhya Pradesh) have all moved up eight places. Araria (Bihar), Bahraich and Siddharthnagar (both Uttar Pradesh) have moved up seven places.

More urban residents, certainly more in shanty-towns, ‘jhuggi-jhopdis’ and slums. More demand for a staple food basket from fewer cultivators. More demand for water (piped, tanker, water mafia, rainwater harvesting – which will they choose? Can they even choose any more?). More transport, two-wheelers (on credit), mobile phones, LPG cylinders (but biomass is still used for cooking in urban settlements). More informal jobs with little or no workplace security. That is the speeding urbanisation, the consequence of policies oriented to manic ‘growth’, two years after the 2011 population marker.

And India? From 1,210 million in 2011 to 1,252 million. One and a quarter billion.

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  1. […] In 2011 March, the Census of India recorded the country’s population as 1,210.2 million – the rural population at 833.1 million (up by 90.47 million from 2001) and the urban population at 377.1 million (up by 91 million from 2001). The population growth rate for India between 2001 and 2011 was 17.64%, but while the rural populatio…. […]

  2. […] would have happened in February 2013, the crossing of the billion and a quarter mark (1.25 billion). What will our tally be in March 2015, two months from now? It depends how complex you want your […]


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