Population growth rate of Meghalaya: A trend

By A Roy Choudhury & US Bhattacharjee

According to Oxford Advanced Dictionary the term Census denotes the process of officially counting a country’s population, and recording various facts. Hence, it is a very important tool for measuring the trend of decadal growth of population in a particular country which is fragmented into some units known as states.

The Process of census taking and data dissemination has evolved over the years. The advent of new technologies for data capture, data processing etc. allows us to integrate changes not only in the basic census taking procedure but also at the crucial stages of data handling and management. The 2011 census of India would therefore mark the beginning of a new era in terms of change in the methodology of census taking and quick dissemination of census results using the modern technology options available. The data generated at each census has a great utility for national planning as well as policy formulation on different social, economic and political aspects. It provides a wealth of information on different demographic parameters.

India is one of the most populous countries in the world. The population of the country in 2011 census was 1.21 billions whereas the population of Meghalaya is found to be only 29,66,889 in absolute numbers. The population of Meghalaya is only 0.25 percent of the total population of India. The decadal growth rate of India between 2001 and 2011 census is found to be 17.68, whereas decadal growth rate of Meghalaya in the decade is 27.95. The decadal growth rate of other North Eastern States is much lower than that of Meghalaya in the same decade. The decadel growth rate of Arunachal is found to be 26.03, Assam – 17.07, Manipur – 12.5, Mizoram – 23.47, Nagaland – (-) 0.58 and Tripura 14.84. The growth rate of population in Meghalaya is highest due to the higher birth rates compared to other states. As per Sample Registration System Bulletin, 2011, the estimated birth rate of Meghalaya is 24.1 whereas estimated birth rate in respect of Arunachal Pradesh is found to be 19.8, Manipur-14.8, Mizoram-16.6, Nagaland 16.1, Tripura – 14.3 and Assam – 22.8. It is seen that the birth rate at 21.8 for India also was appreciably lower than the corresponding rate of Meghalaya. The Growth rate in respect of Meghalaya between 1981 to 2011 has actually declined. The growth rate between 1981 to 1991 was 32.86, whereas it was 30.65 between 1991 – 2001 and 27.95 between 2001 to 2011. It is seen that the growth rate of Schedule Tribe (S.T.) population between 2001-2011 is 28.25 which is higher than the State growth rate. However, the growth rate of Non-S.T. population is 26.10 which is lower than the State Growth. The percentage of Schedule Tribe population to total population of Meghalaya was 85.94 in 2001 whereas in 2011 census the percentage has seen increased to 86.15 percent. In contrast the percentage of Non-schedule Tribe population has declined from 14.06 percent to 13.85 percent between the decade. Therefore claims by certain groups of people that growth of non-tribal population in Meghalaya is a threat to life and existence of the state is based on imagination and not founded on scientific facts and data.

Further, reasons of high birth rate of S.T. population of Meghalaya that is 27.95, which is 10 per cent higher than the National average and highest amongst the North-Eastern States, is due to non-implementation of National Family Welfare Programme (Family Planning Programme), which is a National Priority Programme; although several crores of rupees is allocated to the State Government for this purpose by the Central Government during 12th Five Year Plan Period. This mess is created by corruption and rampant money laundering by the officials of the concerned departments of Meghalaya. Moreover, the near total failure of Family Welfare Programme in the State is also due to indifference and hostility of certain groups. We feel government field publicity department should play a vital positive role to educate the rural masses that the family planning is the need of the hour, otherwise, there will be a huge increase of BPL population in the State in the next census.

It may be noted here that the Meghalaya has been ranked as one of the ‘least developed’ states in the country by a panel headed by Raghuram Rajan. (Present Governor of the Reserve Bank of India), and this is reported in the Telegraph dt. 27.09.13 – although political class and N.G.Os are very rich in Meghalaya ! So, birth control should be given priority by the policy makers of the State.

It will not be out of place to mention here that around 64.4 percent of the children in the State are suffering from malnutrition while 47.2 per cent of the women are anemic. This was revealed in a health camp organized by the Martin Luther Christian University (MLCU) in Moodymmai village under Thadlaskein block in the Jaintia Hills district. The camp was organized with an aim to reach out to rural communities and extend the University’s awareness programme to the marginalized (BPL) section of society. (Times of India dt. 28.08.13).

Last year, the Meghalaya Government had decided to conduct a survey to find out the reasons for the high prevalence of anemia in the state. It was found that many women died after child birth due to low hemoglobin. This is also one of the reasons for the increase in the maternal mortality rate in the state, a health official said (Times of India, dt. 28.08.13).

This writer thinks that high birth rate in the S.T. communities in the State is directly responsible for increasing the below poverty line (BPL) population in Meghalaya which leads to semi-starvation, i.e. malnutrition in pregnant mothers further leading to their deaths due to anemia during child birth. They leave behind malnourished children, who are a liability on society. Whether our decision makers and political class will rise to the occasion and solve the problems with scientific temper and outlook is the moot point.

Urban areas may be more developed when compared to rural areas. In order to get a clear picture with regards to the urban scenario, compilation of urban indicators has to be given top priority. The data pertaining to Shillong UA in relation to various indicators will immensely help to analyse the actual position and trend of ST and Non-ST population and formulate the appropriate urban policies and programmes. The trend can be properly analysed by the data users. The wrong notion and lack of awareness may sometime lead to misunderstanding.

In Shillong Municipality, there was a negative growth rate of 6.43 percent for Non-Schedule Tribe population during 1991-2001. This is due to the fact that a large chunk of Non-Schedule Tribe population has migrated to Guwahati and elsewhere due to the bifurcation of AG’s office, Income Tax, Survey of India etc. and the other Central Govt. Offices and due to the retirement of Central and State govt. employees during the decade. It is revealed that a large population, elite and educated class are silently but steadily shifting out of Shillong due to retirement or old age as most of their children are either studying or employed elsewhere in the country. It is seen that the Non-Schedule tribe population is gradually dwindling in Meghalaya since 1971.

During 2001-2011 also, the growth rate of Non-Schedule Tribe population in Shillong was found to be only 7.15 percent which is much lower than the corresponding urban growth rate of 21.6 percent. In Shillong cantonment there is a negative growth rate of 3.24 percent between 2001-2011 against the growth rate of 11.33 percent observed during 1991-2001. In Pynthorumkhrah Urban segment also the percentage of Non-Schedule Tribe has considerably decreased from 26.81 percent to 15.75 percent between the two decades.

In view of the above the higher natural growth as revealed for Schedule Tribes should be curbed including protection and awareness from unwanted pregnancies. Reproductive health services for adolescent girls and boys is especially significant in rural areas where adolescent marriages and pregnancies are widely prevalent. As such, higher birth rate should be arrested and focused service delivery by NGO’s may effectively complement the existing government efforts.

[A. Roy Choudhury is Retd. Asst. Director Of Census Operation, Meghalaya & U.S. Bhattacharjee is an Advocate, Shillong]

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