Friday, June 21, 2024

CM sees silver lining behind State’s high population growth rate


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From CK Nayak

 New Delhi: The highest decadal growth rate of the population in Meghalaya may have raised alarm bells across the hill State. But Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma apparently sees a silver lining in both its cause and effects.

Speaking at the 56th meeting of the National Development Council here, Dr Sangma, himself a doctor, said this growth rate has been declining over the years and the rise in population is mainly due to the declining death rates because of the State’s proactive health policy.

Meghalaya, with a population of nearly 30 lakh, has reported the highest decadal growth of 27.82 per cent not only among all the Northeastern states but also among the special category states and even states with vast international borders like Punjab and Rajasthan according to the latest Census held earlier this year. “The State will make further efforts to reduce the birth rate and reach the third stage of demographic transition in which the birth rate as well as the death rate will be low,” he said.

“The State has the highest decadal growth rate of population but the trend of accelerated growth is reversed and there is decline in the growth rate during 2001-11 as compared to the previous decade,” Dr Sangma stated, adding, “The high population growth rate is because of our good performance in reducing the death rate without commensurate reduction in the birth rate.”

“The total fertility rate or the total number of children for a woman, as observed from the NFHS (National Family Health Survey) reports, is 3.8 in the State as against the national average of 2.7. On the other hand, the State has been able to reduce the IMR (Infant Mortality Rate) to 53 which is lower than the National average,” he said.

The Chief Minister also made attempts to term the high population growth rate as an advantage rather than a disadvantage. “Firstly, the high population growth will be used as an advantage by creating productive employment. Skill development programmes have been taken and the Institute of Entrepreneurship is going to give further impetus to the programme,” he said.

Another significant achievement of the State has been the removal of the rural-urban gap in IMR. At the national level, rural IMR is significantly higher than in the urban one, he said. “With a vigorous all round drive the State will reach a stage when there would not be any lopsided population growth and the human skills will be fully utilised,” Dr Sangma told The Shillong Times at Vigyan Bhavan after the inaugural session of the National Development Council meet.

Census figures for the whole country had showed that the percentage decadal growth during 2001-2011 has registered the sharpest decline since Independence — a decrease of 3.90 percentage from 21.54 to 17.64 per cent. In case of Meghalaya the rate has also declined from 31.3 per cent to 28.82 per cent during the same period.

Interestingly, only Nagaland showed a negative growth rate (minus 0.47 percent). Neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh had a decadal growth rate of 25.92 % followed by Mizoram (22.78 %), Manipur (18.65%), Assam (16.93 %) and Tripura (14.75 %).

While no reason was given for the high decadal growth of population in Meghalaya, it is suspected that a large number of illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh have been counted in the State. Many such foreigners are also entering from Assam since they cannot go to others N-E states like Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland because of strict inner line permit regulations.


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