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POPULATION

The size and growth of population is a very vital factor to determine the feasibility of economic development of a country. While a growing population is advantageous to the under populated developing country but the same growing population acts as a serious drag on economic development of an over populated developing country. Rate of growth population in the over-populated country still remains high despite their poor rate of economic growth. Gunner Myrdal, in his study of the population problems of the South Asian countries, has come to the conclusion that "the rate of population growth in these countries is now largely independent of their rate of economic development."

Assam being a state of Indian Union is also subjected to high rate of population growth as that of the country as a whole. Assamís land area constitutes 2.4% of the total land area of the country, whereas it gives shelters to the extent of 2.64 per cent (estimated during 1991) of country's population. Further, Assamís population constitutes 74.7% of the population of the North-Eastern region of India. In respect of population and area, Assam ranks thirteenth and twelfth respectively among the states of India.

Growth of population :

Assam is facing a formidable problem of alarming growth of its population. Since 1901, Assam had the distinction of recording one of the highest growth rate of population among all the states. The following table shows the trend of population in Assam vis-a-vis India since 1901.

Table-- 2.1

Trend in population of Assam and India

Year

Population

(Lakh)

Assam as% of all India

Estimated decadal migration as% to Assamís Population

Practical decadal Variation

 

Assam

 

India

 

 

 

Assam

 

India

 

(1)

(2)

(3)

(4)

(5)

(6)

(7)

1901

1911

1921

 

1931

1941

1951

 

1961

 

1971

 

1981

1991

33

38

46

 

56

67

80

 

108

 

146

 

199

224

2,383

2,520

2,512

 

2,789

3,185

3,610

 

4,391

 

5,471

 

6,838

8,463

1.4

N.A.

1.9

 

N.A.

2.1

2.2

 

2.5

 

2.7

 

2.9

2.64

-----

N.A.

9

(0.4)

N.A.

N.A.

6

(0.5)

11

(1.2)

7

(1.0)

-----

-----

-----

+ 17.0

+20.5

 

+19.9

+20.0

+19.9

 

+35.0

 

+35.0

 

+36.1

+53.2*

------

+5.8

-0.3

 

+11.0

+14.2

+13.3

 

+21.6

 

+24.8

 

+24.9

+23.5

Source : (i) Census of India  (ii) Col. No. 4 and 5 are collected from Fifth Five Year Plan,         Assam, Volume I, 1973,P.1.

Note : 1. Assamís population figure for 1981 is a projected figure in the absence of census figure.

N.A.= Not Available, +increase -decrease

Figure in brackets show net migrants in million.

* Rate of growth of population during 1971-91.

It is revealed from the above table that the size of population in Assam has been increasing at the rapid rate, i.e., for 33 lakhs in 1901 to 46 lakhs in 1921 and then to 80 lakhs in 1951. Further, the size increase to 146 lakhs in 1971 and then to 224 lakhs in 1991. On the other hand, total population of India has also been increasing at a high rate, i.e. from 2,383 lakhs in 1901 to 2,512 lakhs in 1921 and then to 3,610 lakhs in 1951 and again the size increased to 5,471 lakhs in 1971 and then to 8463 in 1971 and then to 1991. The table also shows that the rate of growth of population in Assam is all along higher than that of India. The percentage of decadal variation in Assam shows an increase of 17 percent during 1901-11 and that of India was only 5.8 per cent. Again the percentage of increase in Assam were 20.5 per cent, 19.9 per cent, 20.4 per cent and 19.9 per cent during the decades 1911-21, 1921-31, 1931-41 and 1941-51 respectively and that of India shows a decline of 0.3 per cent of then increase of 11.0 per cent, 14.2 per cent, 13.3 per cent during the above mentioned decades respectively. Further, the decadal variation in Assam shows an increase at the constant rate of 35.0 percent both during 1951-61, 1961-71 and of 53.2 during 1971-91 whereas decadal variation in India shows an increase of 21.6 per cent, 24.8 per cent and 54.2 during the respective decades. Thus the census data shows that Assam has one of the highest demographic grown rate. The compound annual growth rate of population in Assam is around 3 per cent.

Further, it is revealed that the size of population in Assam as percent of All India population have been increasing from 1.4 per cent in 1901 to 1.0 per cent in 1921 and then to 2.1 per cent, 2.2 per cent, 2.5 per cent, 2.7 per cent, 2.9 per cent and 2.64 per cent during 1941, 1951, 1961, 1971, 1981 and 1991 respectively.

Lastly, the table shows that the estimated decadal migration as percentage to Assamís population were 9 percent, 6 percent, 11 percent and 7 percent during 1911-21, 1941-51, 1951-61 and 1961-71 respectively and that the total number estimated number of migrants were 0.4 million, 0.5 million, 1.2 million and 1.0 million during the respective decades. Thus a significant portion of the increase in Assamís population is due to the influx of people from the neighbouring countries.

Fall in the Decadal Growth Rate of Population in Assam in the post--1971 period

The decadal growth rate of population in Assam in the post-1971 period has dropped suddenly inspite of the fact that there has been large scale in-migration in the post-1971 period. The decadal growth rate of population in Assam in the pre-1971 period, particularly since 1951, suddenly jumped up from 19.9 per cent in 1951 to 35.0 per cent in 1971. This sudden jump in the decadal growth rate was mostly resulted from huge influx of population from the neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal coupled with high birth rate. In 1981, there was no census operation in Assam due to Assam agitation and therefore, the population in Assam was recorded as per projected figures. But after the completion of 1991 census, it is found that the decadal growth rate of population during the last two decades, i.e. during 1971-91, was recorded at 53.2 per cent. Thus the average decadal growth rate of population during the last two decades is estimated at 26.6 per cent which shows a substantial fall as compared to that of pre-1971 period.

The factors which are mostly responsible for this sudden drop in the decadal growth rate of population in Assam are discussed below.

1. Fall in the Birth Rate : The first important factor responsible for this sudden drop in the decadal growth rate of population in Assam is the fall in the birth rate of its population from 38.5 per thousand in 1971 to 30.9 per thousand in 1991. Again, in spite of the substantial fall in the death rate of its population from 17.8 thousand in 1971 to 11.5 per thousand in 1991, the natural growth rate of population in the state has also declined marginally from 20.7 per thousand in 1971 to 19.4 per thousand in 1991. This is no doubt a good trend in the growth rate of population in Assam.

2. Check in the flow of Immigration : Large scale immigration of population from the neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, erstwhile East Pakistan, Nepal etc. was highly responsible for the high decadal growth rate of population in the pre 1971 period. But after historic Assam Accord, the Government of Assam along with the Central Government has been trying to contain the flow of illegal immigration of population from the neighbouring countries by adopting various measures like-building of barbed wire fencing at the border with Bangladesh, construction of border road, increase in the number of check post, increasing vigil on the border by deploying increasing number of BSF personnel, detection and departation of illegal migrants etc. As a result of these measures, it is supposed that the large scale illegal immigration of population from Bangladesh and Nepal into Assam has been contained. Thus the check in the flow of immigration of population from the neighbouring countries may be considered as another important factor for the sudden drop in the decadal growth rate of population in Assam in the post-1971 period.

3. Fall in the Migration of Population from the neighbouring States : The third important factor for the sudden drop in the decadal growth rate of population in Assam in post-1971 period is the fall in the flow of migration of population from other states of the country, particularly since 1981. Since 1981, Assam has been experiencing a series of political turmoil, chaos, law and order problem, agitation, extremism, flight of capital, exodus of business communities etc. All these have resulted not only a halt in the influx of population from Assam to other states.

Thus the above mentioned factors may justify the peculiar trend in the fall in decadal growth rate of population in Assam in the post-1971 period.

Migration of population in Assam

In Assam, there is a huge shift of population from migration of population. Migration is one of the main causes for rapid growth of population. Assam is experiencing three different types of migration, i.e. intra-state migration, inter-state migration and inter-country migration. It would be better to explain these three types migration in detail.

(a) Inter-state migration : In Assam, there is a huge extent of intra-state migration of population from rural to urban areas of the state in search of better employment opportunities and better social services related to education, health etc. Such type of migration become acute in Assam since eighties of the last century. Such type of intra-state migration does not increase the size of population rather it simply changes the rural-urban composition of the population structure of the state.

(b) Inter-state migration : The second important type of migration experienced by the state is the inter-state migration where people from different states of the country are migrating to Assam on various socio-economic grounds. With the growing industrialisation and expansion of trade and commerce in the urban and semi-urban areas of Assam, a huge number of population has migrated to the urban areas of the state from other states of India. Such migration is essential in the initial stages of development of region as it provides capital, efficient manpower etc. Although it is quite difficult to estimate the magnitude of such inter-state migration but one can roughly imagine the extent of such migration of population into Assam, particularly in the initial stage of the development of the state.

(c) Inter-country migration or Immigration : The third and most important type of migration facing the state is the inter-country migration or immigration of population from the neighbouring countries. Large scale immigration of population from the neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, erstwhile East Pakistan, Nepal etc. causes a high rate of growth of population in Assam. Such immigration was very high in Assam during 1961-71 and even in recent times such immigration is still continuing in a low off.

Normally, migration of population from foreign countries is more harmful than migration taking place within a country. Migration of population from our country to another may have resulted from unfavourable economic conditions of the people residing in the country. The movement of people from one country to another may also resulted from short term disasters such as floods, droughts, earthquakes etc. Under such a situation, people are compelled to change their settlements due to adverse economic conditions resulting from natural calamities.Political disturbances and communal conflicts prevailing within a country are also playing a pivotal role in migration. Under such a situation, people are forced to leave their native country because of danger to their lives and properties. But whatever may be the reasons of such migration, the large scale entry of aliens results in a high rate of growth of population of the country on the receiving end.

Assam, being a state of north-eastern region of the country, is surrounded by foreign countries. The economic condition of these neigbouring countries are not at all favourable rather they are indigent than that of Assam. Consequently, the people from Bangladesh and Nepal are migrating to Assam mainly due to adverse economic conditions prevailing in their countries. A good number of people from Bangladesh, suffering from devastating floods and cyclones, are migrating to Assam for better living, creating a huge problem for the state.

Thus large scale migration of population into Assam from the neighbouring countries causes high rate of increase in its size of population. The estimated figure of net migrants in Assam were 0.4 million, 0.5 million, 1.2 million and 1.0 million during 1911-21, 1941-51, 1951-61 and 1961-71 respectively. Thus the estimated decadal migration as percentage to Assamís population were 9 per cent, 6 per cent, 11 per cent and 7 per cent during the above mentioned respective decades. Thus a significant portion of the increase in Assamís population is due to the influx of people from the neighbouring countries.

After the historic Assam Accord, the Government of Assam alongwith the Central Government has been trying to contain the flow of illegal immigration of population from the neighbouring countries by adopting various measures like building of barbed wire fencing at the border with Bangladesh, construction of border roads, increase in the number of check-post in the border areas, increasing vigil on the border with Bangladesh by deploying increasing number of B.S.F. personnel, detection and deportation of illegal migrants through 16 tribunals etc. As a result of the implementation of these measures, it is supposed that the larger scale illegal immigration of population from Bangladesh and Nepal into Assam has been contained. Thus considering the seriousness of the issue, immediate and adequate steps must be taken to check the flow of illegal immigration at any cost.

Impact of rapid Growth of Population on the economy of Assam :

In Assam, the pressure of population is too high. Growing population in Assam has been creating serious problems in its economy. Since 1951 to 1991, the size of population in Assam has increased from 80 lakhs to 224 lakh. This increase in the population in Assam at a quicker pace has created serious impact on economy. The following are some of the important impacts of high rate of growth of population on the economy of Assam :

Firstly, high rate of growth of population in Assam has been obstracting in the expected growth of per capita income of the state. The per capita income in Assam is very low. The per capita income in Assam could not achieve its expected growth due to slow pace of its state income and high rate of growth of population.

Secondly, high rate of growth of population in Assam has created the problem of poverty. Thus whatever development has been achieved in the state, it is being swallowed up by the increased population. In Assam, the growth of assets could not keep pace with its growth of population leading to increase in the problem of poverty day by day.

Thirdly, high rate of growth of population has created food problem in Assam. Increasing size of population has raised the demand for food but the area under cultivation and the production of food did not increase simultaneously. With the increase in the size of population alongwith the increase in their income, the demand for food products are increasing and, therefore, prices of food articles alongwith goods has increased in Assam and it has created food problem in the state.

Fourthly, high rate of growth of population has resulted unemployment problem of Assam. In Assam, increase in the number of employment generated could not keep pace with the high rate of growth of population., This has resulted in unemployment problem in the State. During the Five Year Plans, although steps were taken to create employment opportunities but this problem could not be solved accordingly. At the dawn of the Third plan total number of unemployed persons in Assam was 1.17 lakh. Even after providing employment to 3.84 lakh persons during the Third plan, total backlog of unemployment at the end of the Third plan increased to 3.22 lakh. In this way at the end of each plan total number of unemployed is increasing day by day. In 1991, total number of people registered in the live register of employment exchange in Assam was 8.34 lakh. Moreover, a good number of people in the rural areas also remained underemployed.

Fifthly, high rate of growth of population has created various types of social problems. These social problems include the problems of education health, housing, land, water supply etc. With the rapid growth of population in Assam, these problems are increasing day by day.

Sixthly, high rate of growth of population has retarded the capital formation in Assam. Capital is formed out of savings. But the high rate of growth of population has retarded the pace of growth in Assam. In Assam, the rate of growth of state income should be at par with that of growth of population. For this, the savings should grow at the rate 24 per cent per annum and then only the rate of capital formation in Assam would be satisfactory.

Seventhly, high rate of growth of population in Assam has widened the inequality in the distribution of income and wealth. The gap between the rich and the poor has been increasing day by day.

Thus, due to all these reasons, the increasing pressure of population in Assam has been increasing the economic problems day by day, leading to irreparable loss to the economy.

Age composition and the dependency burden :

According to 1971 census, the age composition of Assamís population shows that in the groups 0--14 (school going age) and 15--59 (working age) the per cent of population are 46.9 and 48.4 respectively as against 42.2 and 52.0 per cent in India. This shows that the dependency burden of population in Assam is 51.6 per cent and that of India is 48 per cent.

In 1981, there was no census operation in Assam. But the 1991 census shows a total change in the composition and dependency burden of the population in Assam. As per 1991 census, population in Assam was 19.73 per cent as against 17.94 per cent for all India. Moreover, the percentage distribution of estimated population of Assam by age group (as per Sample Registration System- R.G.I.) in 1992 shows that in the age groups 0-14 years (school going age), 15-59 (working age) and 60 and above (retired age), the per cent of population are 36.1 per cent, 59.4 per cent and 4.5 per cent respectively. This shows that the dependency burden of population in Assam is 40.6 per cent.

Moreover, total workers as percentage of total population, i.e., work participation rate in Assam was 36.9 per cent as compared with 37.46 per cent in all India. Thus the percentage of non-workers to the total population in Assam was 63.9 per cent as compared with 62.5 per cent for all India.

Birth and Death Rate : The census report for 1961 revealed that while birth rate in Assam remained around 49 per thousand but the death rate has declined from 31.8 in 1951 to 26.9 per thousand in 1961. In 1970, the birth rate in Assam has declined to 38.8 per thousand and the death rate also came down to 16.2 per thousand. The national figure of birth and death rates in 1970 stood at 36.8 and 11.2 (per thousand) respectively. In 1976, the birth and death rates in Assam came down to 32.8 and 14.9 (per thousand) respectively as against the corresponding national figures of 34.4 and 18.0 respectively. The birth rate and death rate in Assam in 1991 stood at 30.9 and 11.5 per thousand as compared with 28.9 and 10.0 per thousand for all India. Again as per the sample Registration System Estimates, 1994, the birth rate and death rate in Assam in 1994, stood at 30.8 and 9.2 per thousand respectively as compare to that of 28.7 and 9.2 per thousand respectively for all India. Thus both the death and birth rates have been failing steadily over the past few years due to eradication of tropical diseases, improvement in medical and public health facilities, spread of Education and growing impact of family planning programmes.

Density of population :

In 1991, the density of population per square kilometer in Assam was 286 persons as against 186 persons in 1971, while corresponding national averages were 244 and 167 persons respectively. Among all the districts of Assam, Nagaon ranks first regarding density of population which was 302 persons per square km. in 1971 census. Other district that can be placed serially according to its ranks regarding density  are Kamrup (289), Cachar (246), Goalpara (215), Sibsagar (204), Dibrugarh (201) Darrang (198) Lakhimpur (126) and Karbi-Anglong (16). In 1991, the density of population per square Kilometre in Dhubri District was highest, i.e., 470 persons and the lowest density was recorded in North Cachar district, i.e., 31 persons per sq. km.

Sex Ratio

It is revealed in the census report of 1991 that out of the total population of 224 lakh in Assam 116.5 lakh were male and 107.5 lakh were female. Thus the sex ratio in terms of females per 1000 males for Assam was 925 as against 896 in 1971. The corresponding ratio for the country as a whole was 927 in 1991. Among all the district of Assam, the ratio was highest in Dhubri (1950) and it was lowest in the district of North Cachar Hills (841).

Rural Urban Composition

Assam has a predominantly rural population with 88.8 per cent of the total population living in the rural areas. Thus the state is underurbanised to a great extent. The following table will show the rural-urban composition of the population of the State as also of India during 1971-91.

Table-- 2.2

Rural urban composition of population in Assam and India.

Percentage of Rural and Urban Population

 

1971

1991

 

Assam ----

India ----

Rural

91.1

80.1

Urban

8.9

19.9

Rural

88.8

74.3

Urban

11.2

25.7

Source : Census of India, 1971, 1991

As per 1991 census report, out of the total population of 224 lakh in Assam, 199 lakh (88.8 per cent) persons are living in rural areas and the remaining 25 lakh are living in urban areas, i.e., 11.2 per cent of the total population living in the rural areas for all India was 74.3 per cent compared with 88.8 per cent for Assam. Thus the State is still under-urbanised to a great extent.

The total number of towns in the State has been increasing from 53 in 1961 to 72 in 1971 and at present, Assam has 93 towns. Guwahati is the only city having population over 5.8 lakh. The other cities having population over lakh include Dibrugarh, Jorhat and Silchar. Dibrugarh and Kamrup are relatively the more urbanised district among all the districts of Assam.

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes

According to 1991 census, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes population as in percentage of total population of Assam were 7.4 per cent and 12.8 per cent respectively as against the corresponding figures of 16.9 per cent and 7.9 per cent of the total population of India as a whole. The total number of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes population in Assam, as per 1991 census, were 1659 thousand and 2874 thousand respectively. Among all the district of Assam, the population is the highest in Cachar followed by Nagaon. The two hill districts are predominantly inhabitated by the Scheduled Tribes and among the plain districts of Assam, the population of Scheduled Tribe to total population is the highest in Kokrajhar District.

Literacy

The Literacy rate in Assam was not significant especially when compared to the rise in all India literacy rate. The literacy rate in Assam was increased slightly from 27.0 per cent in 1961 to 28.1 per cent in 1971, compared to the rise in all India literacy rate from 24.0 per cent in 1961 to 29.5 per cent in 1971. In 1991, the literacy rate in Assam  increased to 52.9 per cent and in this same year the rate of literacy for all India was 52.2 per cent. The significant feature of the literacy rate is the marked improvement in female literacy in Assam which shows an increase from 15.1 per cent in 1961 to 43.03 per cent in 1991, while corresponding figures for male literacy shows an increase from 37.3 per cent to 61.8 per cent. Jorhat recorded the highest percentage of literates (65.5 per cent) among all the districts of Assam and Dhubri district ranked at the lowest having its literacy rate 38.3 per cent only. Assam ranks, sixteenth in the case of literacy among all the States.

Working Force and Occupational Distribution

According to 1991 census, total number of main working force in Assam was 82.6 lakhs which constituted 36.9 per cent of the total population of the State. Distribution of main working force (in percentage terms) into various economic activities were as follows : 50.9 per cent as cultivators ; 12.09 per cent as agricultural labourers, 10.5 per cent in live-stock, forestry hunting and plantation and allied activities; 0.49 per cent in mining and quarrying;: 4.0 per cent in manufacturing process, servicing and repairing; 1.57 percent in construction ; 6.8 per cent in trade and commerce ;: 2.5 per cent in transport communication and 11.1 per cent in other services.

Urbanization and Economic Development and Trend of Urban Population in Assam

Urbanization. Urbanization is one of the common characteristics of economic development. With the gradual growth of the economy, the process of urbanization depends on the shift of surplus population from rural to urban areas alongwith the growth of some industrialised urban centres. Due to social and economic pressure people from backward villages started to move towards urbanized centres in search of job, where newly established industries and ancillary activities continuously offer job opportunities to those people migrating to cities. The pace of urbanization gradually declines only when the proportion of urban population to total population of the country becomes too high.

Urbanization and Economic Development. Urbanization and economic development are closely associated. Economic development of a country indicates the increase in the level of per capita income and standard of living alongwith the enlargement of employment opportunities for its growing population. With the attainment of economic development and growing industrialisation, the process of urbanization starts at a rapid scale. Some areas emerge as a large urbanised centre with  large scale industrial and trading activities. These areas started to offer increasing number of employment opportunities leading to a shift of population from rural areas to these urbanized centres. Thus economic development of a country assist in its process of urbanization. Growing industrialisation raises the rate of economic development alongwith the pace of urbanization in the country. Increase in the rate of economic development raises the level of per capita income and standard of living of the people which in turn enlarges the demand for various good and services. This increase in aggregate demand expands the production system leading to large scale production of various goods and services. All these lead to increase in the pace of urbanization in the country. Thus there is a good degree of correlation between the level of per capita income and the pace of urbanization. Moreover, economic development paves way for growth in cities and towns.

But higher degree of urbanization cannot reduce the degree of unemployment in India and more particularly in a state like Assam significantly though the absorption of increasing number of surplus labour force from rural areas as the scope for raising urban employment is also limited. The factors which are responsible for the typical situation are --- (a) neglect of urbam slums in our planning coverage ; (b) growing exploitation of unorganized sectors by capitalists, contractors, landlords etc. and (c) increasing application of capital intensive techniques in urban areas.

Thus, in comparison to the degree of urbanization achieved in India as well as in Assam, the absorptive capacity of the urban centres is very low. This shows the region why the urbanized in Assam could not make much headway in reducing the degree of unemployment.

Thus, in conclusion, it can be observed that the attainment of high rate of economic development paves the way for growing urbanization alongwith the increase in the level of per capita income and the development of various urbanized infrastructural facilities like transportation and communication, housing, education, health, trade, banking etc. But the growing urbanization has also lead to the huge concentration of population in urban areas, resulting in various evils side by side such as growth of slums, increasing congestion and pollution, problems of transportation, housing, water supply, health services, unemployment and poverty.

Trend of Urban Population in Assam. Assam has predominantly rural population with majority of the total population living in the rural areas. Regarding the distribution of population between rural and urban population, the state has been continuously showing its traditional rural character. Thus the State is under-urbanized to a great extent. Due to slow pace of urbanization as well as industrialisation, migration of indigenous people from rural to urban areas of Assam was very minimum in the initial stage. As for example, in 1941, only 3.3 per cent of the total population of Assam was residing in urban areas as compared to that of 14.6 per cent of the total population in all India. Again during 1941-51, the size of urban population in Assam has increased from 208 thousand to 344 thousand leading to increase in the proportion of urban population from 3.11 per cent to 4.29 per cent This increasing trend in urban population in Assam has resulted mainly due to establishment of new government offices, influx of Hindu refugees from East Bengal and gradual increasing attraction of rural people towards urban life.

Although the size of urban population in Assam was very minimum but it started to show a gradual increasing trend since 1951. Different economists are of the opinion that urbanisation is closely related to development. According to these economists, "the growth of urban area through migration from the country-side is proceeding too fast and has created serious problems". Thus the government of less developed countries are trying to prevent migration from rural to urban areas. But it has been found difficult to check such tendency.

The following table shows the trend of urban population in Assam, since 1901.

Table--- 2.3

Trend of Urbanization in Assam : 1901 to 1991

Census

Urban population of Assam

Percentage of Urban population to total population

Growth rate (Decadal) of urban population (%)

India

Assam

India

Assam

1

2

3

4

5

6

 

1901

1911

1921

1931

1941

1951

1961

1971

1981

1991

77074

92,916

127,107

162,166

208,067

344,831

781,288

1289,222

------

2487,795

10.84

10.29

11.18

11.99

13.86

17.29

17.97

19.91

23.34

26.73

2.34

2.41

2.74

2.92

3.11

4.29

7.21

8.82

-----

11.10

---

0.35

8.27

19.12

31.97

41.42

26.41

38.23

46.14

36.47

---

20.5

36.80

27.58

28.30

65.73

126.57

65.01

-----

*92.97

Note --- *The figure shows growth rate during 1971-91 as there was no census in Assam in 1981.

Source : Census of India, various issues.

The above table reveals the trend of urbanization in Assam in comparison to all India. The total urban population of Assam has gradually increased from 77 thousand in 1901 to 3.44 lakh in 1951. During this period, the percentage of urban population to total population has gradually increased from 2.34 per cent in 1901 to 4.29 per cent in 1951. But during this same period, the percentage of urban population to total population of India also increased from 10.84 per cent in 1901 to 17.29 in 1951. Thus during the first half of the last century, the impact of urbanization in Assam was less as compared to that of all India. But during the same period, the decadal growth rate of urban population in Assam has increased from 20.55 percent in 1911 to 36.80 percent in 1931, 28.30 percent in 1941 and rose significantly to 65.73 per cent in 1951. But during this same period, the decadal growth of urban population in India gradually increased from 0.35 percent in 1911 to 31.97 percent and 41.42 percent in 1941 and 1951 respectively.

Again, during the second half of the last century, total urban population of Assam started to increase at a rapid rate. Accordingly, total urban population of Assam rapidly increased from 3.44 lakh in 1951 to 7.81 lakh in 1961, 12.89 lakh in 1971 and then to 24.87 lakh in 1991. During this period, the percentage of urban population to total population in Assam rapidly increased from 4.29 per cent in 1951 to 7.21 per cent in 1961, 8.82 per cent in 1971 and then to 11.10 per cent in 1991. During this same period, the percentage of urban population to total population of India increased from 17.97 per cent in 1961 to 19.91 per cent in 1971 and then to 26.73 per cent in 1991. Thus it is found that during the last half of the last century although the proportion of urban population to total population of Assam remained less but it increased considerably in recent years.

Moreover, the decadal growth rate of urban population in Assam increased rapidly from 65.63 per cent in 1951 to 126.57 per cent in 1961, and then to 65 per cent in 1971 and finally to 92.97 per cent during last two decades of 1971-91. On the other hand, the decadal growth rates of urban population of all India comparatively stood at 26.41 per cent in 1961, 38.23 in 1971, 46.14 per cent in 1981 and 36.47 per cent in 1991.

Therefore, from the foregoing analysis it is revealed that the growth rate of urban population in Assam was much higher as compared to that of all India from the very beginning and the growth rate increased further in recent times as compared to that of India. Moreover, the rate of growth of urban population in Assam is much higher as compared to that of total population of the State. Therefore it can be observed that the impact of urbanization in Assam has increased and this impact and pace of urbanization is increasing year by year.

The following table shows the growth of population of some important towns of Assam.

              Table--- 2.4

                                   Population of some important towns of Assam since 1951.

(in thousands)

Towns

1951

1971

1991

Rate of growth during 1951-71 (%)

Rate of growth during 1971-91 (%)

 

 

Guwahati

Dibrugarh

Silchar

Nagaon

Dhubri

Barpeta

Bongaigaon

Tezpur

Jorhat

Tinsukia

Sibsagar

Diphu

Karimganj

43.6

38.0

34.0

28.2

22.7

21.1

 

18.8

16.1

12.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

146.0

80.3

52.5

56.5

45.5

26.4

13.9

39.8

70.0

54.9

27.4

10.2

31.6

577.5

118.3

115.0

93.3

65.8

25.3

35.6

54.9

111.5

73.7

36.6

39.5

43.6

235.0

110.0

54.0

100.0

100.4

25.0

----

110.0

335.0

350.0

----

----

----

295.3

47.3

119.0

65.1

44.6

(-) 4.1

156.1

37.9

59.2

34.2

33.5

287.2

37.9

Sources : 1. Census of India, 1951, 1971, 1991, Volume xii.       2. NEC Basic Statistics, 1980

The above tables reveals that the total population of Guwahati has increased from 43.6 thousands in 1951 to 146.0 thousands in 1971 and then to 5.77 lakh in 1991. The other cities which have more than 1 lakh population in 1991 include Dibrugarh (1.18 lakh), Silchar (1.15 lakh) and Jorhat (1.11 lakh). During 1951-91, the population of some important towns such as Guwahati, Tinsukia and Jorhat have increased significantly by 235 percent, 350 per cent and 335 percent respectively. Moreover, during this period the sizes of population of Dibrugarh, Dhubri, Nagaon and Tezpur became double. Again during 1971-91, the population of some important towns like Guwahati, Silchar, Bongaigaon, Diphu, Nagaon and Jorhat have increased by 295 percent, 119 percent, 156 percent, 287 percent, 65 percent and 59 pe cent respectively. Thus from the above analysis it is revealed that the size of  urban population of some important town in Assam have been increasing at a rapid pace with the growing trend of urbanization in the State.

Factors Responsible for Higher Rate of Growth of Urban Population in Assam.

Increase in the size of urban population is a common feature, common to almost all the countries of the world. With the growing economic development, the size of urban population is increasing simultaneously but at a very faster rate. Economic development is well connected with urbanization. Colin Clarke and G.B. Fisher argued that economic development is very much symptomized by the shift of population from the rural to the urban areas. Similar is also case for Assam where the size of urban population has been estimated that since 1951 to 1971 nearly 25 to 30 lakhs people have migrated to Assam from outside the state. Again in the post 1971 period, another 10 to 15 lakh of people is estimated to have entered areas where  they can earn higher amount of income and can provide better educational facilities to their children and can also enjoy better social services like medical care, housing facilities etc.

General Factors :

Causes of urbanization are many and varied. There are many factors which are responsible for high rate of growth of urban population in Assam. One such very important factor is the natural growth of urban population which includes migration of population from rural to urban areas. Factors like change in administrative status of certain unit and consequent enlargement of government expenditure and employment potentialities along with the expansion of educational facilities etc. are highly responsible for such migration of population from rural to urban areas. Moreover, a change in the definition of urban areas adopted by census operations and inclusion of some fringe areas within such towns are also responsible for such a high rate of increase in urban population.

Special Factors :

There are certain special factors which are responsible for such a high rate of growth of urban population in Assam. The following are some of those special factors :

(1) Growth of urban area : With the passage of time, the sizes of urban areas have been growing steadily. The total number of towns in Assam has  increased from 23 in 1951 to 53 in 1961, 73 in 1971, 78 in 1981 and 94 in 1991. This shows that as the sizes of urban areas are expanding with the increase in the number of towns, the increase in the size of urban population is obvious.

(2) Migration of population from rural areas of the State : In Assam, there is huge shift of population resulting from migration of population from rural to urban areas in search of better employment opportunities and better social services related to education, health etc. Such type of migration became acute in Assam since eighties of the last century.

(3) Migration from other States : With the growing industrialisation and expansion of trade and commerce in the urban areas of Assam, a huge number of population has migrated to the urban areas of the State from other states of India. Such migration is essential in the initial stage of development of a region as it provides capital, efficient manpower etc.

(4) Immigration : Large scale immigration of population from the neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, erstwhile East Pakistan, Nepal etc. causes a high rate of growth of urban population in Assam. Such immigration was very high during 1961-71 and even in recent times such immigration is continuing.

(5) Natural factors : Natural factors leading to a high rate of growth of population is also common in respect of growth of urban population. With the growth of medical facilities in the urban areas, death rate declines significantly but the birth rate in the urban areas did not fall commensurately. This has led to high natural growth rate of urban population in Assam.

(6) Neglect of the village economy : In Assam, the village economies are largely neglected inspite of its huge potential and necessities. Although Assam is an agricultural state but the development of the agricultural sector in the state has been totally neglected. Agricultural operation in the state has not yet been modernised. Basic facilities required for the modernisation of agriculture, viz., irrigation supply of basic inputs like HYV seeds, fertilizers, pesticides etc. have not yet been provided adequately in the rural areas of the state. Due to lack of agricultural research and absence of intensive cultivation, the agricultural sectors has largely remained under-developed. Moreover, in the absence of the availability of alternative employment opportunities due to lack of industrialisation and more particularly due to lack of adequate development of small, cottage and village industries in the rural areas of the state, growing number of rural people did not find sufficient avenues for gainful employment in the rural areas itself. Thus there is continuous outflow of rural population to the urban areas of the state in search of gainful employment.

Thus under such a situation, this high rate of growth of urban population in Assam has been resulting in various evils such as growth of slums, increasing congestion and pollution, problems of transportation, housing, water supply, health services, sanitation and finally to unemployment and poverty.

Inflow of Foreigners, the Assam Agitation and the Assam Accord

Assam has been experiencing a tremendous rate of growth of population since 1901 and more particularly since 1951. The size of population in Assam has increased considerably from 33 lakhs in 1901 to 224 lakhs in 1991 showing a growth of over 79 percent during the last 90 year period. During this same period, India as a whole experienced a growth of population by 255 per cent.

The table no. 2.1 shows the decadal growth rate of population in Assam and all India. The column no. 6 and 7 of the same table shows that the decadal growth rate of population in Assam was all along high since 1921 (i.e., around 20 per cent) and became very high since 1961 i.e., around 35 percent as compared to that of around 24 per cent for all India.

Such a high decadal growth rate cannot be resulted from high natural growth rate of population resulting out of excess of birth rates over death rates as there is no adequate reason to accept a higher natural growth of population in Assam.

A significant portion of the increase in Assamís population is also due to the influx of people from the neighbouring countries. The table no. 2.1 shows that the estimated decadal migration as percentage of total population in Assam were 9 per cent, 6 per cent, 11 per cent and 7 per cent during 1911-21, 1941-51, 1951-61, and 1961-71 respectively and that of total estimated number of migrants were 0.4 million, 0.5 million, 1.2 million and 1.0 million during the respective decades.

Thus, it is observed that after the partition of the country, there was a huge influx of Hindu refugees from East Bengal (now Bangladesh) to adjoining states like Assam, Tripura, West Bengal etc. These refugees gradually settled down in different areas of the state which were close to urban centres as well as in rural areas where they have some relations or linguistic affinity. After partition, the influx of Muslim farm settlers from East Bengal became slow for a short period but the same flow again began to rise in the post 1951 period and they started to settle in Government waste land, forest land, grazing land and low lying char areas (river island). Moreover, a good number of Nepali people started to flow into the state from Nepal and they also started to settle in the hilly slope areas for dairy farming which were not in the knowledge local people or revenue administration.

Thus, this huge inflow of foreign national of different linguistic groups has resulted in peculiar socio-political and economic problems for indigenous population of Assam. Besides creating problems like illegal encroachment of agricultural land and unemployment, this huge inflow of foreign national has also disturbed the status of the language of the indigenous people and also affects the composition of the state Government through collective voting pattern followed in the election.

Moreover, after independence, a good number of people from other states of India has also started to settle in Assam and other North Eastern States and engaged themselves in various trade, business, industry,. profession etc. It is difficult to estimate the exact number of such migrated people from other states of the country. Considering the natural rate of growth of population in Assam and all India, it has been estimated that since 1951 to 1971 nearly 25 to 30 lakhs people migrated to Assam from outside the state. Again in the post 1971 period, another 10 to 15 lakh of people is estimated to have entered into Assam from outside the state. But it is difficult to identify how many of these migrants were foreign national and how many of them were Indian Citizen. But it can be guessed that about 75 per cent of these migrants came from the neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal.

Considering this huge influx of foreign national in Assam as well as its adverse impact on social, political and economic conditions of the people of Assam, the All Assam Students Union (AASU) initiated a state-wide agitation in 1979 against the foreign national in a non-violent manner with active participation and co-operation of local people as well as the cross sections of people living in the state. After a prolonged six years of agitation, the Assam Accord was signed on 15th August, 1958 by the leader of AASU and the representatives of both Central and State Government. Among the various understandings reached, the Accord makes provision for the following important arrangements :

(a) defranchisement of foreign national who settled down in Assam during 1961 to 1971 for a limited period of 10 years ;

(b) deportation of those foreigners who came to Assam after 1971 to other places ;

(c) regularisation of pre- 1961 foreign immigration as citizen of India ; and

(d) holding of fresh election in Assam on the basis of revised voters list and immediate imposition of presidentís rule in the state.

The implementation of the various clauses of Assam Accord was vested with both the State and Central Governments. Now the identification of foreigners and their deportation, and the revision of the voters list are no doubt very difficult tasks before the Government. Even after the completion of about 10 years of signing the Assam Accord, the Government could not finalise the voter list of Assam at the satisfaction of the Election Commission and could identify and deport only a limited number of foreigners from the state.

During the the period 1985 to 1995, only 8,955 people have been found to be foreigners under Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) IMDT Act, 1983. Of them, 1,287 were deported since 1985. The names of 11,513 persons have so far been deleted from among 18,347 persons identified by Foreignersí Tribunal as belonging to 1966 -71 stream of foreigners. During the period from July 1, 1991 to January 31, 1995, 553 foreigners were deported out of 1,281 detected by the IMDT tribunals. Apart from this, 70,641 migrants from Nepal and 19,162 new entrants and "re-entrants" from Bangladesh were detected and sent back to their country of origin.

At present 16 tribunals under the IMDT Act are functioning in the State to deal with foreigners who entered Assam on or after March 25, 1971, when the Bangladesh became a sovereign nation.

As per the reply of the Chief Minister of Assam in the Assembly on March 31, 1997, it is found that 12 illegal immigrants have been deported from the state so far since the AGP and its allies formed the Government while 9,376 such other migrants have been identified under IMDT Act as illegal immigrants from January 1985 to January 1997 and other 19,183 immigrants have been identified under the Foreignersí Act as illegal immigrants during the period from January 1986 to January 1997. It is also stated that upto January, 1997, a total of 12,113 cases of complaints are pending with the IMDT tribunals.

But regarding the other clauses of the Accord, viz., making provision for rapid economic development of the state, establishment of one I.I.T. and a Central University, reviving the sick Ashok Paper Mill at Jogighopa and providing safeguards to the interest of the indigenous people, these can be implemented if the Government is sincere. In the mean time, both the Central as well as the State Governments have taken some important steps for the fulfillment of these other clauses.

High Rate of Population Growth

The size of population in Assam is growing at an alarming pace. The population growth, instead of being an asset, has become one of the most important constraints on the economic development of the state. Assam (along with other states of India) is facing a situation described as the population explosion. The decadal variation of the size of the population in Assam in percentage terms shows an increasing trend i.e., from an increase of 17.0 per cent during 1901-11 to 20.4 per cent during 1931-41 and then increased at a constant rate of 35.0 percent during 1951-61, 1961-71 and 1971-81 (estimated). Again, the rate of growth of population during the last two decades 1971-91 was 53.2 per cent. The decadal variation of population in Assam is all along higher than that of India.

Causes of high rate of growth of population in Assam

The high rate of growth of population in Assam depends on the factors related to birth, death rates and followed by migration of population from the neighbouring countries. Factors related to high rate of growth of population in Assam are as follows :

1. Natural growth rate : The wide gap between the birth rate and the death rate of population in Assam, along with other states of India, is a very important factor to push the natural growth rate of population at a high level. With the growth of medical science death rate started falling rapidly but there was no marked fall in the birth rate. In 1991, the natural growth rate of population in Assam stood at 19.4 per thousand and for all India the rate was 20.5 per thousand. Thus the present rate is too high in comparison to natural growth rate of population (all India) of 6.6 per thousand in 1901-11.

2. Poverty : Poverty along with some associated factors as poor diet, illiteracy and ill-health etc. used to raise the birth rate in the under-developed country at a high level. Children without getting educational facilities start to help their parents in work and raises the family earnings and, therefore, prove to be assets to the family. Further, there is also close positive relation between high fertility and poverty of the people. Chronic hunger makes sex important enough to compensate emotionally for the shrunken nutrional appetite. In Assam 75 per cent of total population are living below the poverty line. Naturally, the birth rate is high in Assam.

3. Universality of marriage : Marriage is universal in Assam along with other States of India. Unmarried men and women do not enjoy, in general, a respectable social status. Thus almost all men and women of marriageable age enter into wedlock.

4. Practice of early marriage : People pf Assam used to marry at an early age. This early marriage is a common characteristic of Indian people which gives them a longer span of reproductivity activity. It is likely that between 15 and 20 years of age every 8 out of 10 girls are married. Thus the early marriage is a very important factor for the high rate of growth of population in Assam.

5. Tropical climate : Puberty of women starts at an early age of 15 due to tropical climate in Assam. Thus women in Assam starts fertilisation very soon after they enter reproduction stages. This creates large number of births.

6. Religion and social attitudes : Religion and social attitudes in Assam along with other States of India, still prefer large families. Social attitudes towards unmarried men and women, and married people without children are not very encouraging. Further, the existence of Joint family system induces thoughtlessness regarding the number of children.

7. Migration : Large scale migration of population into Assam from the neighbouring countries causes high rate of increase in its size of population. The estimated figure of net migrants in Assam were 0.4 million, 0.5 million, 1.2 million and 1.0 million during 1911-21, 1941-51, 1951-61 and 1961-71 respectively. Thus a significant portion of the increase in Assamís population is due to influx of people from outside.

8. Illiteracy, ignorance and lack of conscious family planning : A significant portion of population in Assam and women in particular is illiterate. The literacy rate in Assam was 52.9 percent. Female literacy rate in Assam was only 43.03 per cent in 1991. Further, people are ignorant about the biology of reproduction , need of birth control and devices of birth control. In the implementation of Family planning programmes during the period 1974-75 to 1976-77, other than sterlisation, performance of the state was below all India percentages. In Assam 17.46 persons per thousand population were covered under Family programmes as against 22.04 persons per thousand population in India. In 1991-92, total number of people sterlized in Assam was 66 thousand and the same figure declined to 27 thousand in 1992-93.

Taking all these factors into consideration it can be stated that the population in Assam is growing at an alarming rate. If these present state of conditions are allowed to continue its operation then the population in Assam will continue to grow at a rapid rate causing a serious problem to the economy of the state.

Remedial measures

The problem of high rate of population growth should be tackled carefully. We shall have to approach the whole problem both from the production and population sides. Thus the policy to control population should be framed in terms of a development programme. While population should reduce the pace of its growth, production should also increase at a rapid rate. The following measures are suitable for checking the rate of growth of population in Assam.

1. Modernization by agriculture : In Assam, the primitive method of agriculture is still being followed which must be replaced by better methods. Further, provision must be made for irrigation facilities and for applications of fertilisers and pesticides for better cropping, along with fundamental reorganization of agriculture through land reforms.

2. Industrial development : Assam is lagging behind other states in regard to industrial development. As Assam is having sufficient industrial potential, so necessary industries should be developed so that increased pressure of population be balanced with increased production, creating additional employment potential in the state.

3. Reduction in the birth rate : To reduce the birth rate of the present population is an effective measure to check the rapid growth of population in the state. Postponement of the age of marriage and limiting the size of the family are most effective points towards limiting the birth rate of population in Assam.

4. Postponement of the Marriage : The raising of the age of marriage can check population growth by reducing the effective child-bearing period and particularly knocking off the most fertile period from the point of child bearing.

5. Limitation of the size of family : The most important measure to check population growth is to limit the size of families through family planning. The Health Department of the state must put much emphasis on setting up family planning clinic throughout the state to spread knowledge about the use of contraceptives and other methods of birth control.

6. Spread of education : Education and general enlightenment of the people creates desire for smaller families. Thus necessary steps be taken for general spread of education in Assam.

7. Increasing employment of Women and improvement of their social status can reduce the birth rate of population in the state.

8. A rise in the standard of living through increased production of wealth and urbanization of the population can work as active agents to check the rate of population growth.

9. To stop influx of population : A significant portion of the increase in Assamís population is due to influx of people from neighbouring countries. Thus this influx in the form of infiltration must be stopped completely and proper steps should be taken to check this large scale infiltration. This include sealing of the border, creation of no-manís land,  increased patrolling, imposition of night curfew on border areas and finally to tone up the border administration.

Thus, the population problem of Assam should be tackled both through the policy of increasing production and population control.

Family Welfare Programme :

Family welfare programme includes conscious family limitation, where babies will born by choice not by chance and maintenance of family welfare at an optimum level by providing  sound health and sanitation facilities. Family Welfare Programme, is also geared up in Assam along with other states of India. Let us know look into how the family planning programme was implemented in the state. In the implementation of family planning programmes particularly in case of sterilisation, Assamís performance was better than that of all India during 1974-77. The number of persons sterilised per thousand population was 2.69 for Assam as against 2.46 for India during 1974-75. The same figure than increased to 15.46 for Assam and 15.06 for all India during 1976-77. During 1977-78 the number of persons sterilised declined sharply to 0.94 and 1.68 per thousand for Assam and all India respectively.

The performance of Assam in implementing family planning programmes other than sterilisation during the period from 1974-75 to 1976-77 was below all India percentages.

About total performance of family planning programmes, the number of persons covered per thousand of population was 4.50 and 7.85 for Assam and all India respectively during 1974-75 which again increased to 17.46 and 22.04 for both Assam and all India respectively during 1976-77. But then the figure declined to 2.28 and 8.04 for Assam and all India respectively during 1977-78. Thus, in respect of total performance, Assamís performance was all along poor in comparison with all India performance.

The recent statistics about the achievements of Family welfare programme in the various districts of Assam show that in 1978-79, the number of persons sterilised was highest in Nagaon district (14,114 Nos.) ; the number of I.U.D. (loop) insertions was the highest in Nagaon district (1,578 nos.). But the number of Condom users was highest in the district of Goalpara (4.18 lakhs) and then followed by Nagaon district (3.8 lakh).

In 1981-82 total number of persons sterilised in Assam was 234,116 and the achievement of Dibrugarh District (9,565 persons) was highest among all the districts followed by Sibsagar district (7716 persons). Total number of I.U.D. insertions in Assam during 1981-82 stood at 15,588 and the achievement of Nagaon district was  highest (2,03). Total number of condom users has also been increasing from 13.11 lakh in 1980-81 to 16.10 lakh on 1981 -82. In this respect also, the achievement of Nagaon district was highest (3.38 lakh in 1981-82) among all the districts of Assam followed by Kamrup disrict (2.91 lakh).

In 1981-82, total number of persons sterilised in Assam was 234,116 and the achievement of Dibrugarh District (9,565 persons was highest among all the district followed by Sibsagar district (7716 persons). Total number of I.U.D. Insertions in Assam during 1981-82 stood at 15,588 and the achievement of Nagaon district was highest (2.03). Total number of condom users has also been Increasing from 13.11 lakh in 1980-81 to 16.10 lakh in 1981-82. In this respect also, the achievement of Nagaon district was highest (3.38 lakh in 1981-82) among all the districts of Assam followed by Kamrup district (2.91 lakh).

By studying the performance of family welfare programme in Assam in recent years, it is found that the total number of persons sterilised has increased from 60,173 in 1989-90 to 66,323 in 1991-92 and then it declined to 23,000 in 1994-95. Among the various districts of Assam, the performance of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia district in respect of sterilization was highest (i.e. 17,955 persons in 1991-92 and 5925 persons in 1992-93) In 1994-95, total number of Copper ĎTí and Condom users in Assam were 34,608 and 46,677 respectively. In this respect, the position of Nagaon and Morigaon districts was the best.

 

 
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