Resources Research

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

Posts Tagged ‘Bihar

The cities and their multitudes

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The 166 Indian cities in the UN population list. What do the colours mean? Dark blue is for city populations up to 250,000; light blue is 250,000-500,000; pink is 500,000 to 1 million; orange is 1 million to 5 million; red is 5 million and above. The source for the data is 'World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision', from the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division.

The 166 Indian cities in the UN population list. What do the colours mean? Dark blue is for city populations up to 250,000; light blue is 250,000-500,000; pink is 500,000 to 1 million; orange is 1 million to 5 million; red is 5 million and above. The source for the data is ‘World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision’, from the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division.

Bigger cities growing at a rate faster in the last decade than earlier decades. This is what the image shows us. These are 166 cities of India whose populations in 2014 were 300,000 and above. The jagged swatches of colour that seem to march diagonally across the image describe tiers of population, for the table is arranged according to the populations of these cities in 2015, with the annual series beginning in 1985 and extending (as a forecast) until 2030.

The populations of four cities will cross 0.5 million in 2015: Jalgaon (Maharashtra, whose population will be 506,000 in 2015), Patiala (Punjab, 510,000), Thoothukudi (Tamil Nadu, 514,000) and Imphal (Manipur, 518,000). They will join a group of cities which in 2014 crossed the 0.5 million mark: Gaya (Bihar, 508,000 in 2015), Rajahmundry (Andhra Pradesh, 511,000), Udaipur (Rajasthan, 517,000), Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh, 518,000), Kayamkulam (Kerala, 533,000) and Agartala (Tripura, 550,000).

Just ahead of these are Vellore (Tamil Nadu, whose population in 2015 will be 528,000 and which crossed 0.5 million in 2013), Mathura (Uttar Pradesh, 529,000 and 2014), Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu, 530,000 and 2011), Sangli (Maharashtra, 545,000 and 2009), Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh, 550,000 and 2013), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh, 556,000 and 2009), Kurnool (Andhra Pradesh, 567,000 and 2012), Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh, 587,000 and 2011), Erode (Tamil Nadu, 590,000 and 2010) and Cherthala (Kerala, 593,000 and 2013).

To make this chart I have used the data from ‘World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision’, from the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. The 166 cities of India are extracted from the main table, ‘Annual Population of Urban Agglomerations with 300,000 Inhabitants or More in 2014, by Country, 1950-2030’.

The baskets of old Bihar

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“Baskets used specially by the sower are called generally ora, ori or oriya (sometimes made partly with the fibre of the leaves of the tal palm); also we meet, to the west, chhainti, and to the east chhita (a large one), chhiti (a small one), or dauri. South of the Ganges they are also called in Patna batta (also in Shahabad), daura, or dauri (sometimes made of the culm of the silk grass, andropogon muricatum), in Gaya (also in North-East Tirhut) pathiya (also used for feeding cattle), and in South Munger khanchiya. The only difference amongst all these is that in the case of the daura and dauri the bottom is woven of bamboo slips, like a mat.

“There are likewise several other kinds of baskets, used indiscriminately for this and other domestic and agricultural purposes. Thus, small straw grain-baskets are changeli or changeri, and sometimes dali or daliya, especially towards the east. In Patna and South Munger they are called batri. Another very similar basket (but still smaller) is called very generally maunni or mauniya, also batta in Patna, Gaya and South Munger, and phuluki in East Tirhut. A large open basket made of split twigs of bamboo generally woven up with the fibre of the leaves of the til palm is called tokra, dhaka, dhaki, ora or chainta. A smaller variety is called ganja, tokri, dhakiya.

“When the bottom is very finely woven, so as even to hold water, it is called oraisa. The dhama is an open basket made of rattan. The khaincha or khancha is a large coarse basket made of twigs of cytisus cajan (rahar) or tamarisk (jhau). South of the Ganges we also find deli. A smaller basket of the same kind is known as khanchi (also khanjhi in North-East Tirhut), khanchiya, khacholi, pathuli (Gaya), nonihari (Patna), or (South Bhagalpur) damhariya. The dagra, dagri, also called South of the Ganges daura, dauri, or (South Bhagalpur) dala, is a large shallow basket. These are all made of either bamboo twigs or slips, except the daura or dauri. In Shahabad karui or doki, and north of the Ganges sikahuti or sikauti, is a little basket made of the stalks of the munj grass.

“A broken basket is chhitai, or in Gaya chhatna, or in South Bhagalpur chhitna. The jhampi or jhampiya is a little basket with a lid. It is also called punti or pautiya (being then generally made of munj grass) and petari (made of bamboo or rattan). A larger kind is called jhampa. The lid of all these is called pehani or jhamp. Thaicha or changor, or in Shahabad thaincha or thincha, is a kind of large open basket. Phuldali is a flower-basket, saji is one with a handle. In North-East Tirhut mator is a basket used by betel-growers.”

From ‘Bihar Peasant Life, Being a Discursive Catalogue of the Surroundings of the People of that Province‘, by George A Grierson, printed in 1885 at The Bengal Secretariat Press, Calcutta.

Sons of the Indian soil, 1941

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The Gavara ryot of Madras (left) and the Kunbi cultivator of Gujarat (right)

The Gavara ryot of Madras (left) and the Kunbi cultivator of Gujarat (right)

To present the cultivator as a person and not as an economic unit. This was the object of a delightful and, in its own way, philosophical volume on the Indian cultivator, published more than threescore and ten years ago in 1941.

‘Sons Of The Soil, Studies Of The Indian Cultivator’ was edited by W J Burns, at the time an Agricultural Commissioner with the Government of India, and the book was printed at the Government Of India Press (at 8 Hastings Street, Calcutta).

The Gavara ryot of Madras, by B Ramaiah Garu – Age-long experience has taught him to adjust the details of his operations in such a way that he and the other members of his family are kept engaged throughout the year and employ as little outside labour as possible. He looks after his cattle well and often makes money by purchasing young calves or buffaloes, rearing them and selling them after working them in his own fields for a season or two.
The Kunbi cultivator of Gujarat, By B S Patel – He is fairly hardy and is inured to the toil and hardship associated with farming. He is sober, quiet, industrious, enterprising and frugal, except on special occasions such as marriage and death ceremonies, when he spends rather beyond his means, vying with his richer brethren. He is very  hospitable, frank by nature, simple in his habits and is a good husband and father. His dress consists of a piece of white cloth wrapped round his head by way of turban, a bandi (a coat up to the waist) and a dhoti covering his legs.

I have here very cursorily extracted the text from six of the 25 captivating sketches of these sons of the soil (the regions included four that were in British India but are not in the Republic of India). These sketches, the treatment by their authors of the cultivator as a many-sided personality, shaped by his region and culture, are of a quality that has scarcely in my view been matched in recent years.

The Lingayat ryot of the Karnatak (left) and the Bengal cultivator (right).

The Lingayat ryot of the Karnatak (left) and the Bengal cultivator (right).

The Lingayat ryot of the Karnatak, by Rao Bahadur S S Salimath – His diet is very simple. It consists mainly of jowar bread, nucchu (broken and boiled jowar grain), boiled pulses, & small quantity of any vegetable that may be available and some rice if he can afford it. His holiday dish is either Imggi (whole wheat grain boiled with some gur) or malidi (boiled wheat dried, pounded and mixed with some gur). The latter is preferred for journeys and in camps.
The Bengal cultivator, By K McLean – The cultivator has a long day. Dawn finds the cultivator up and about on the way to the field. His breakfast, consisting of reheated boiled rice, is brought to him in the field and he carries on till midday when he returns to the homestead for the big meal of the day. This consists of rice and curry which may be made of vegetables only or include fish according to the season.

The many volumes of the last score of years that describe the growing of food and the lives of the growers of food usually fall into two categories – the first of the political economy and agrarian relations kind, which are loaded with sociological cant and dense with agro-economic punditry, or they are the ‘market’ kind and erase to a featureless nothingness the cultivating household in favour of advocating various solutions to the problems of yield, or credit, of cooperation or of finding ways to get produce to market.

Both approaches have for the most part lost sight of the cultivator, his habits, his dislikes, his preferred repasts, his entertainment and his eccentricities.

The Kurmi cultivator (left) and the Bihar cultivator (right).

The Kurmi cultivator (left) and the Bihar cultivator (right).

Hence the clear foreword of ‘Sons Of The Soil’ (for clarity was easier then, when needs were fewer and the distance between town and village shorter, both on the road and in the mind), which said of the cultivator: “He is India outside of the towns. He is mentioned in speeches, leaders, lectures and poems usually more as a type than a person. The object of the following sketches is to give some clear outlines in place of this vagueness, and especially to show the variety of individuals and classes who cultivate the soil of this great country.”

The Kurmi cultivator, By M Mohiuddin Ahmad – It is rather creditable to the Kurmi cultivator that, working against heavy odds, he manages to produce excellent crops on his fields and very successfully competes with more advantageously placed cultivators. Every Kurmi cultivator commits to memory a large number of sayings on different agricultural subjects, such as preparation of seed-bed, time of sowing, manuring, weather forecasts, livestock, and so on.
The Bihar cultivator, By D R Sethi – Simple in habits, thrifty to a degree and a master in the art of market-gardening, the Koer is amongst the best of the tillers of the soil to be found anywhere in India. He rarely hires labour but makes all members of his family, including his womenfolk, work in the fields. The Koer does not indulge in expensive social ceremonies and spends less on marriages than other cultivating classes. He is religious and as a rule avoids intoxicants.

“There is,” Burns had written all those years ago, “a family resemblance between these cultivator types, a resemblance that grows as one reads the life-story and daily routine of one son of the soil after another. There is the same plainness of life, the same wrestling with uncertainties of climate (except in favoured areas), the same love of simple games, sport and songs, the same religious background, the same neighbourly helpfulness, and the same financial indebtedness.”

When India’s food growers cannot afford fuel, light and food

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This group of ten charts describes the trends over more than seven years of the food, and the fuel and light components of the consumer price index numbers for agricultural labourers. The data has been taken from reports issued by the Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India.

This group of ten charts describes the trends over more than seven years of the food, and the fuel and light components of the consumer price index numbers for agricultural labourers. The data has been taken from reports issued by the Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India.

This group of charts describes the trends of two indexes – food, and fuel and light – for agricultural labourers in ten states. The consumer price index (CPI) that is usually invoked by the government, by industry, by the corporate associations (such as chambers of commerce), and by economists and banks is a number for that month considered to be ‘national’.

This has no meaning, for what you and I buy is not at a ‘national’ market but at a local one – we may even buy from a roving street vendor, provided our municipal corporation or council has the sense not to outlaw these vendors (which sadly is discrimination common in metropolitan cities).

A consumer price index, in order to be of any use, must be local, and must relate to those who can set some store by it. That is why it is most useful to look carefully at what CPI includes, and it does include much detail, which this small group of charts helps reveal.

The consumer price index numbers for agricultural and rural labourers (with a base of 100 fixed to the year 1986-87) is calculated by the Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India. Who are agricultural labourers? The Bureau’s definition is: “Agricultural labour households – the rural labour households, who derive 50 per cent or more of their total income from wage paid manual labour in agricultural activities, are treated as agricultural labour households.”

According to the Bureau, a person is considered an agricultural labourer, if she or he “follows one or more of the following agricultural occupations in the capacity of a labourer on hire, whether paid in cash or kind or partly in cash and partly in kind” and the occupations are: farming including cultivation, growing and harvesting of any agricultural commodity; production, cultivation, growing and harvesting of any horticultural commodity; dairy farming; raising of livestock, bee-keeping or poultry farming; any practice performed on a farm “incidental to or in conjunction with the farm operations” (this includes forestry, market-related activities such as delivery and storage, and the actual movement of produce to markets).

The collection of rural retail prices every month from shops and markets is done by the Field Operations Division of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). In 20 states it collects data from 600 representative sample villages every month, with one-fourth of the sample being covered every week. Prices are collected either on a market day (which is most commonly a set day of the week) for those villages that do not have daily markets, or on any day for those that do.

And here we have – for Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat, West Bengal and Bihar, ten of India’s most populous states – the proof of how much India’s growers of food are burdened by the rising price of fuel and light (that means of electricity and power, diesel, kerosene and coal) and of food (cultivators and food growers also buy what they do not grow or husband).

The data vault of the 2011 Indian Census

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20140304Major update – Extensive new data tables have been made available for public use by the Census of India. These include: (1) Primary Census Abstract tables to the village and ward level, (2) consolidated top level datasheets for Population Enumeration Data, population living in villages, age data, and data on disability.

Here they are:

[Set 1] Primary Census Abstract Data (Final Population); Primary Census Abstract Data for Houseless (India & States/UTs – District Level) ; Primary Census Abstract Data for Scheduled Castes (SC) (India & States/UTs – District Level) ; Primary Census Abstract Data for Scheduled Tribes (ST) (India & States/UTs – District Level) ; Primary Census Abstract Data for Slum (India & States/UTs – Town Level) ; Primary Census Abstract Data Highlights – 2011 (India & States/UTs) ; Primary Census Abstract Data Tables (India & States/UTs – District Level) ; Primary Census Abstract Data Tables (India & States/UTs – Town/Village/Ward Level).

[Set 2] Villages By Population ; Village population Tables ; Percentage of population living in villages of various population size with reference to the total rural population: 2011 ; Percentage of villages and population by class of villages in 2001 and 2011 ; Statement showing the number of Villages of population 10,000 and above with their population: 2001-2011 ; Distribution of 10,000 villages of each class in All India and 10,000 population in each class of villages All India among the States and Union Territories.

[Set 3] Single Year Age Data – (India/States/UTs) ; Single Year Age Data for Scheduled Castes (SC) ; Single Year Age Data for Scheduled Tribes (ST) ; Five Year Age Group Data ; Five Year Age Data for Scheduled Castes (SC) ; Five Year Age Data for Scheduled Castes (ST).

[Set 4] Disabled Population by type of Disability, Age and Sex (India & States/UTs – District Level) ; Disabled Population by type of Disability, Age and Sex For Scheduled Castes (India & States/UTs – District Level) ; Disabled Population by type of Disability, Age and Sex For Scheduled Tribes (India & States/UTs – District Level).

20130903 – The Census 2011 as a data source is now two years old for the first indicators and preliminary estimates were released in 2011 June and July. Since then we have had regular releases from the world’s most detailed very large-scale enumeration of people.

The ‘primary census abstract’ is the most important record for a settlement, whether a rural hamlet or an urban town ward. This contains the population, gender ratio, literacy rate, proportion of children, the numbers of scheduled tribe and caste members, and also contains the four-fold break-up of the working population.

The Census of India has released the primary census abstract (PCA) to the district level for all states and union territories. On the website, you can get the tables for individual districts through a series of menus. Here, I have posted the xls data sheets for every state and union territory, and each sheet contains the PCA for all that state’s districts.

In alphabetical order (and with the state census code) they are: Andaman and Nicobar Islands (35), Andhra Pradesh (28), Arunachal Pradesh (12), Assam (18), Bihar (10), Chandigarh (04), Chhattisgarh (22), Dadra and Nagar Haveli (26), Daman and Diu (25), Delhi (07), Goa (30), Gujarat (24), Haryana (06), Himachal Pradesh (02), Jammu and Kashmir (01), Jharkhand (20), Karnataka (29), Kerala (32), Lakshadweep (31), Madhya Pradesh (23), Maharashtra (27), Manipur (14), Meghalaya (17), Mizoram (15), Nagaland (13), Odisha (21), Puducherry (34), Punjab (03), Rajasthan (08), Sikkim (11), Tamil Nadu (33), Tripura (16), Uttar Pradesh (09), Uttarakhand (05), West Bengal (19).

An Indian cereals quartet from 1969

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A cereals quartet mapped in great detail from 1969 – ragi in the old Mysore state (top left), barley in eastern Uttar Pradesh (top right), bajra in Maharashtra (bottom left), and jowar in Madhya Pradesh (bottom right).

I have taken the details from the lovely set of maps in the Indian Agricultural Atlas (the third edition) of 1969, which was printed at the time by the Survey of India (which provided the base maps). It cost, in those days, 90 rupees which was a small fortune, but little wonder, for the mapwork is superior.


Written by makanaka

August 4, 2013 at 15:29

Census 2011, the first big numbers release

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Census2011_logoThe Census of India has released the first batch of the primary census abstract. This is the heart of the gigantic matrix of numbers that describes India’s population (to be correct technically, India’s population as it was in 2011 March). The PCA, as it is fondly known amongst the tribe that speak its arcane language, is the final and corrected set of numbers of the populations of India’s states, districts, blocks and villages – this corrects, if such correction was required, the data used in the Census 2011 releases between 2011 and now, which were officially called provisional results.

This release of the PCA is detailed down to district level, and that means the block- and village-level releases are to follow. This gives us the rural and urban populations, the number of children between 0 and 6 years old and what gender they are, and it gives us the number of workers and dependents. Within workers, the PCA tells us who the ‘main’ and ‘marginal’ workers are (a distinction based on how much of the year they are employed). What is of great importance to our study of food and agriculture is that the data tell us how many cultivators and how many agricultural labourers there are.

Well then, without further ado, here is where you’ll find this new forest of numbers. First, there is a very good overview provided by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India (that’s the official title of the organisation that carries out the world’s largest census operation, yes yes, there is one larger enumeration but this is the most detailed census in the world) and you can download it here (a big ppt of about 9MB). Then there is the page on which the PCAs of the states and union territories can be found, which is here.

If you’ve hurried over to that last page you will have found that the xls files that correspond to each state and union territory are coded. That is the state code, and in my work I have found it far more useful to have a set of xls files that are named with both the state (or UT) 2 or 3 character forms and their Census codes. So, here they are, in alphabetical order:

Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal. There, that’s all 35 – do let me know if any of these links are empty or pointing to the wrong file.

Quiet numbers tell district tales – rural and urban India, part 6

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In north-east Mumbai (Bombay), open land under high-tension cables becomes a place for many cricket games on a Sunday afternoon.

Census 2011 also informs both the incumbent ‘sirkar’ and us that there are 22 districts in which literacy rates for the rural female population are above 74% (all 14 of Kerala’s districts are included). However, it is in the next 10% range of literacy rates – 74% to 64% – that gains since the 2001 census must be protected and this set includes 82 districts. It is a widely dispersed set, comprising districts from 21 states and union territories.

There are 11 from Maharashtra (including Sangli, Bhandara and Gondiya), 9 from Punjab (including Kapurthala, Gurdaspur and Sahibzada), 7 from Orissa (including Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara and Bhadrak), 7 also from Himachal Pradesh (including Una, Kangra and Solan), 6 from Tamil Nadu (including Thoothukkudi and Nagapattinam) and 5 from Gujarat (including Navsari and Mahesana).

In the background, some of the most expensive office space in the world, Mumbai's Nariman Point business district. In the foreground, temporary shanties on the beach.

The Office of the Registrar General of India, which administers the Census, has cautioned that all the data releases so far are still provisional figures. However, the implications are now plain to see, and give rise to a set of socio-economic questions which demographic and field research over the 12th Plan Period (2012-17) will enlarge and expand upon. Is there for example a correlation between districts whose rural populations have unfavourable female to male gender ratios and districts in which female literacy ratios are low? Comparing the bottom 100 districts under both conditions shows that there are only 12 districts in which both conditions are present (5 in Uttar Pradesh, 2 in Rajasthan, and 2 in Jammu & Kashmir).

A valley in the western hills of Maharashtra state in summer, exhibiting denuded hillsides and scant grazing for shepherds. From villages such as this one, youth and families make their way to the cities.

Most encouraging is that there are 40 districts in which the ratio of the number of literate females to literate males (this is a different ratio from literacy rate), is 0.90 or better, ie there are 900 or more literate females to 1,000 literate males. In this set are all Kerala’s 14 districts but also 13 districts from the Northeast (from Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland).

The remainder are from island Union Territories, from the southern states (3 from Karnataka, 2 from Andhra Pradesh and one each from Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry), from hill states (2 from Uttarakhand, 2 from Himachal Pradesh) and one from Maharashtra. It is these districts that provide abundant reason for the allocation of a minimum 6% of GDP allocation for education – a long-standing commitment – which must begin to be fulfilled in the 2012-17 Plan period.

Thane district, north of the Mumbai metropolitan region, has experienced one of the fastest growths in population in India over the last decade.

How will the Government of India consider these early indicators from Census 2011? How will India’s civil society and the great breadth of organisations – voluntary groups, people’s movements, rural foundations and the like – which have been delivering development ‘outcomes’, year after year, without the benefit of budgetary support but motivated by the plain fact that inequity still exists, how will this group see these indicators?

The Government of India revels in presenting contradiction as a substitute for careful, evidence-based and inter-generational planning. When downward trends – such as those seen in female illiteracy and in the gender ratios of the 0-6 age-group – have been slow over the last 25 years, there is a need to set long-term objectives that are not tied to the end of the next available Plan period, but which use a Plan direction to help achieve them. In this, the Approach Paper to the 12th Five-Year Plan has failed quite signally, because its authors have not drawn the only possible conclusions from the Census 2011 data presented till date. Yet others have done so, notably India’s civil society and its more responsive group of academics. Hence the abundance of contradictions in all major documents – the Approach Paper being the most important, annual Economic Surveys being another type – which seek to reassure one section while in fact underwriting the ambitions of another.

Rural labour pitches camp. Mobile populations such as this one move from more disadvantaged districts to less, as even intermittent agricultural wages and harsh living conditions are better than debt.

So we see that a state which must ensure provision of Right to Education to every child up to the age of 14 years, because it is constitutionally bound to do so, complains in the planning phase itself that scarce resources constrain it from carrying out its duties and therefore advises its citizens that measures like public-private partnership (PPP) should be resorted to. How will such cunning better the lives and present culturally relevant opportunities for the rural populations in the remaining 591 districts which are under the 0.90 ratio for literate females to literate males? What will the emphasis on vocational training (for the urban job pools) instead of people’s empowerment mean for the rural populations in 403 districts where this ratio is less than 0.75 – which means the number of literate rural females is under three-fourths the number of literate males – and in 69 of these districts it is even under 0.60 (25 in Rajasthan, 14 in Uttar Pradesh, 9 in Madhya Pradesh, 6 in Jammu and Kashmir)?

[This is the sixth of a small series of postings on rural and urban India, which reproduces material from my analysis of Census 2011 data on India’s rural and urban populations, published by Infochange India. See the first in the series here; see the second in the series here; see the third in the series here; see the fourth in the series here; see the fifth in the series here.]

Quiet numbers tell district tales – rural and urban India, part 5

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Teenager on a bicycle in rural Maharashtra, western India. At the current rate of migration from rural districts to urban centres, this youth may not stay in the farm labour pool for much longer.

What effect has this imbalanced ratio, so common in the rural populations of districts, on literacy and education? Census 2011 has told us so far that there are 55 districts in which the rural literacy rate is 74% or higher — this is the national effective literacy rate (for the population that is seven years old and above) which is a figure derived from rural and urban, male and female literacy rates. The literacy rates in these 55 districts are for all persons, female and male together. They range from 74% to 89%. All 14 of Kerala’s districts are among the 55, there are 7 districts from Maharashtra, 5 from Tamil Nadu, and 4 each from Mizoram, Orissa and Himachal Pradesh.

A lorry driver poses with his cargo, new tractors. The depletion of agricultural labour has turned agricultural machinery a fast-growing industrial sector. Worryingly for India, government planners see capital used for machinery and industrial agriculture as evidence of 'growth'. But food security remains uncertain for many rural communities.

The top 10 districts in this set are all from Kerala save one, East Delhi. But these 55 districts have returned literacy rates that will form the basis of study and analysis in the years to come, they are outnumbered, by a factor of more than 11 to 1, by districts whose rural populations lie under the 74% national mark, and this too will serve as an early indicator, continually updated, of the commitment of the Indian state to its implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act of 2009, and of the results of the first 10 years of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

Since its inception in 2001-02 the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has been treated by the Government of India and the states as the main vehicle for providing elementary education to all children in the 6-14 age-group. Its outcome — this is how the annual and Plan period results of India’s ‘flagship’ national programmes are now described — is the universalisation of elementary education. The Right to Education Act (RTE) of 2009 gives all children the fundamental right to demand eight years of quality elementary education. For the planners in the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the effective enforcement of this right requires what they like to call ‘alignment’ with the vision, strategies and norms of the SSA. In so doing, they immediately run into a thicket of problems for, to begin with, there are half-a-million vacancies of teachers in the country, another half-million teachers are required to meet the RTE norms on pupil-teacher ratios, and moreover 0.6 million teachers in the public school system are untrained.

This is the creaking administrative set-up against which the total literacy rates of the 585 districts whose rural populations are under the 74% mark must be viewed. Of these, 209 districts have literacy rates for their rural populations which are between 50% and 60%. This set of districts includes 33 from Uttar Pradesh, 30 from Madhya Pradesh, 20 from Bihar, 18 from Jharkhand, 17 from Rajasthan, 13 each from Assam and Andhra Pradesh, and 9 from Karnataka. And finally, there are 95 districts whose literacy rates of the rural population are under 50%.

Low-cost housing in north Mumbai (Bombay). Colonies such as this are typical: unclean surroundings caused by an absence of civic services, minimal water and sanitation for residents, no route to remedy because of political and social barriers.

This set of districts at the bottom of the table includes 17 from Bihar, 14 from Rajasthan, 9 each from Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, 7 from Madhya Pradesh and 6 each from Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Arunachal Pradesh. The districts of Yadgir (Karnataka), Purnia (Bihar), Shrawasti (Uttar Pradesh), Pakur (Jharkhand), Malkangiri, Rayagada, Nabarangapur, Koraput (all Orissa), Tirap (Arunchal Pradesh), Barwani, Jhabua, Alirajpur (all Madhya Pradesh), and Narayanpur, Bijapur and Dakshin Bastar Dantewada (all Chhattisgarh) are the 15 districts at the very base of the table with literacy rates of the rural population at under 40%.

Over 11 Plan periods there have been some cumulative gains in a few sectors. Today, in rural areas, seven major flagship programmes are being administered, with less overall coordination between them than is looked for – a contrast against the ease with which the central government’s major ministries collaborate on advancing the cause of the urban elite — but which nonetheless have given us evidence that their combined impact has improved the conditions of some.

A man transports an LPG cylinder, to be used as cooking fuel, to his home in a shanty colony in north Mumbai (Bombay). Already burdened by the high cost of petroleum products, slum-dwellers are forced to pay a premium for cooking fuels and water.

The seven programmes are: the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) and Total Sanitation Campaign (TSP), the Integrated Watershed Development Programme (IWDP), Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), and rural electrification which includes separation of agricultural feeders and includes also the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY).

For the local administrator these present a bewildering array of reporting obligations. A hundred years ago, such an administrator’s lot was aptly described by J Chartres Molony, Superintendent of Census 1911 in (the then) Madras: “The Village Officer, source of all Indian information, is the recorder of his village, and it well may be that amid the toils of keeping accounts and collecting ‘mamuls’, he pays scant heed to what he and his friends consider the idle curiosity of an eccentric sirkar.”

[This is the fifth of a small series of postings on rural and urban India, which reproduces material from my analysis of Census 2011 data on India’s rural and urban populations, published by Infochange India. See the first in the series here; see the second in the series here; see the third in the series here; see the fourth in the series here.]

Quiet numbers tell district tales – rural and urban India, part 4

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Dense colonies of low-rise apartment blocks in north-eastern Mumbai (Bombay). These date from the 1980s and despite their disrepair are out of reach for some 60% of the giant city's population which live in 'upgraded' slums.

Dr C Chandramouli, Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, presaged the insights that would be provided by new census data in his introduction to the first provisional paper on the 2011 Census: “It provides valuable information for planning and formulation of policies by the government and is also used widely by national and international agencies, scholars, business persons, industrialists, and many more. In addition, the Census provides a basic frame for conduct of other surveys in the country. Any informed decisionmaking that is based on empirical data is dependent on the Census.”

When taken together with the 355 districts whose rural populations are all a million and above, the implications of such a concentration of the 0-6-year-old population in talukas and tehsils (more than those in town wards) become manifold. An immediate rendering of this concentration will take place in the health sector for it is there that imbalances in public expenditure and budget have been most severe.

The change in literacy rates for India's states from 2001 to 2011, with the 0-6 year olds excluded. The colours are: red (75% and below), ochre (75-80%), yellow (80-85%), lime green (85-90%) and green (90% and above). Maps: Census of India 2011

The Government of India has time and again claimed that the 11th Five-Year Plan (2007-12) has sought to raise the share of public expenditure on health (both central and in the states) from less than 1% of GDP in 2006-07 to 2% and then 3%. For this, the National Rural Health Mission (launched in 2005) was intended to strengthen healthcare infrastructure in rural areas, provide more sub-centres, better staff and equip primary health and community health centres.

Census 2011 will, over the months to come, indicate the degree to which these lofty aims — often held up as evidence of the government’s commitment to social equity — have been met. To do this, the ratios will be layered between study outputs that bring out the insights of correlating large demographic data sets — district health services, the national family health survey, planned rounds of the National Sample Survey and, despite the defensible criticism levelled against it, the 2011 BPL survey. Within this dauntingly complex data framework will need to be placed the Plan targets relating to infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, total fertility rate, under-nutrition among children, anaemia among women and girls, provision of clean drinking water for all, and raising child gender ratio for the age-group of 0-6.

Where do the 640 districts and their rural populations lie on a simple child gender ratio scale? Ranked by female to male ratio within the 0-6 years category of population, the top 10% of all districts (that is, 64 districts) register a gender ratio of at least 0.97 and up to 1.01. The districts with the 20 most favourable female to male ratios for the 0-6 population are Dakshin Bastar Dantewada, Bastar, Bijapur, Koriya, Rajnandgaon, Narayanpur and Korba (all Chhattisgarh); Tawang, Papum Pare and East Siang (all Arunachal Pradesh); Nabarangapur and Malkangiri (Orissa); Lahaul and Spiti (Himachal Pradesh), Nawada (Bihar), Chandauli (Uttar Pradesh), Mamit (Mizoram), Pashchimi Singhbhum (Jharkhand), Tinsukia (Assam), South Andaman, and West Garo Hills (Meghalaya).

Vegetables being farmed on agricultural land between two city wards of Panaji (Goa). As the populations of smaller towns in India has risen, their footprint on cultivable land has grown.

Among the top 10% of districts with gender ratios for the 0-6 age group that are favourable to females, Chhattisgarh has 14 while Orissa, Meghalaya, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have 6 each. These are considered, by their states and by the central government’s ministries and departments, to be ‘backward’ districts, tribal in character, lacking in infrastructure and below par in economic development (discounting for this index the proclivity of the state to steal natural resources in the commons, the better to convert it to GDP with). Yet the residents of these districts have proven, as the 2011 data so emphatically shows, that they practice an equality that is far closer to that enunciated in our Constitution than is to be found in the ranks of the million-plus cities.

Even so, the picture at the other end of the scale is a worrisome one. Within the 0-6 years category of the rural population of districts, there are 154 districts whose female to male ratio is less than 0.90, ie 9 girls or less for every 10 boys. In this large set of districts with unfavourable gender ratios amongst the rural population category of 0-6 years, the range of this ratio drops to 0.70 (the average gender ratio for this group of districts being 850 girls to 1,000 boys). There are 24 districts in UP in this set (out of the state’s 71 districts), 20 districts each in Punjab and Haryana (out of their totals of 20 and 21 respectively), 18 each in Rajasthan and Maharashtra (out of 33 and 35 respectively) and 14 in Jammu & Kashmir (out of 22).

[This is the fourth of a small series of postings on rural and urban India, which reproduces material from my analysis of Census 2011 data on India’s rural and urban populations, published by Infochange India. See the first in the series here; see the second in the series here; see the third in the series here.]