Short essay on Distribution of Population in India

Unevenness of distribution is an important feature of India's population. Uttar Pradesh alone houses 16.17 per cent of the country's population. The state's population is more than the total popula­tion of Japan which is the seventh largest country of the world (in terms of population). Of the 35 states and union territories of the country 18 contain more than 1 per cent of India's population.

These together house 97 per cent of the country's total population. Similarly five states consisting of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh with only 30 per cent of the country's total area support about 50 per cent of its population.

The concentration index was less than 0.5 in about one-fourth of the districts in India and was more than 1.5 in about one-fifth of the districts in the country implying that about half of the districts in the country were either sparsely populated or were peopled crowdedly. While the sparsely populated districts were confined largely to the interior heart­land and the Himalayas, the crowded districts were located largely in the alluvial belts. Since the main­stay of the country's economy continues to be agri­culture, the factors that govern distribution of popu­lation in the country are those that promote good agriculture.

The availability of cultivable land, depth of the soil, fertility of the soil, depth of underground water table, availability of water for irrigation are, thus, some of the factors that have guided the distri­butional pattern of population in the country (Chandna, 1996, p.66). Wide regional disparities in the index of concentration of population were observed at more level. The district of Twenty-four Parganas (West Bengal) had the distinction of having highest degree of concentration of population in the country (6.33) while Yanam (Pondicherry) was the most thinly populated district (0.006). While the areas adjoining China, Myanmar have low concentration index, those bordering with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal ex­hibit high concentration index.

A very low concen­tration index of less than 0.5 was observed in about 106 districts of the country mostly lying in the Himalayan region, central highlands, Thar Desert and distantly located islands in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. On the contrary 75 districts mostly belonging to the Lower and Middle Ganga Plain, coastal plains of the Peninsula and industrialised- urbanised areas had high concentration index (above 2).

Density of Population

The density of population denotes the pres­sure of population or the country's land resources (per square km of area). The average density of population was only 77 persons per square km in 1901 which increased to 117 in 1951, 216 in 1981 267 in 1991 and 324 in 2001. During 1991-2001 there is an addition of 57 persons to the country's density which means an increasing burden of 57 varies from as low as 13 per square km in Arunachal Pradesh to as high as 903 for West Bengal. Out of 35 states and union territories 16 record higher density than the national average.

The most densely populated states is West Bengal with a density of903 persons per sq. km., followed by Bihar (881), Kerala (819), Uttar Pradesh (690), Punjab (484), Tamil Nadu (480), Haryana (478) and Goa (364). All the union territories, except Andaman and Nicobar islands, have higher density than the na­tional average (324).

At the other extreme there are eight states (Arunachal Pradesh 13, Mizoram 42, Sikkim 76, Jammu & Kashmir 100, Meghalaya 103, Manipur 111, Himachal Pradesh 109 and Nagaland 120) and one union territory, Andaman & Nicobar Islands (43) which have low density of less than 120 persons per square km. These are mostly hilly states characterised by rugged terrain and inhospitable living conditions. Andaman and Nicobar islands consist of many small islands which are densely forested, poorly connected and distantly located from the mainland.

The district level density (based on 1991 census) also shows great spatial variation. About one-fourth of the total number of districts of the country has higher population density than 500 persons per square km. Of these Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of such districts (34), followed by Bihar (26), West Bengal (13), Kerala (10), Tamilnadu and Haryana (4 each).

Among these high density districts 22 record higher density values than 762 1000 persons. Ten most densely populated districts of the country include Kolkata (23,669), Chennai (21,811), Greater Mumbai (16,434), Hyderabad (14,248), Delhi (6,319), Chandigarh (5,620), Mahe (3,714), Haora (2,535), Kanpur Nagar (2,397), and Bangalore (2,195). These districts together constitute 5 per cent of the total population of the country.

A quarter of the districts of the country have population density below 150 persons per square kilometer. Here 31 districts exhibit population den­sity below 50 persons per square kilometer. All the districts of Arunachal Pradesh (11), Mizoram (03), Andaman and Nicobar islands (02) fall under this category. The lowest population density is recorded in Lahul Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh (2 per- sons/sq km) and Dibang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh (3 persons/sq km).

About 20 per cent of the districts of the country exhibit medium high population density (between 300-500 persons/sq.km). Here again Uttar Pradesh provides the lead (15), followed by Assam (11), Tamil Nadu (9), Bihar (9), Punjab (8), Haryana (8), Andhra Pradesh (7) and Gujarat (6).

Remaining 30 per cent of the districts of the country show moderate population density (between 150-300 persons/sq.km), whose highest concentra­tion is found in Maharashtra (24), followed by Madhya Pradesh (20), Karnataka (14), Andhra Pradesh (12), Rajasthan (11), Gujarat, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh (7 each).

If all the districts of the country are arranged in descending order of their densities (as per 1991 census data) and quartiles are calculated, following facts are highlighted. The first quartile consisting 107 districts shows a density value of 522 and above These districts together occupy 1 1.5 per cent of t country's area and support 35.75 per cent of population.

These districts have an average dense of 844 persons. The second quartile has dense values between 271 and 521. The districts under the quartile cover 19.8 percent of the country's area an account for 27.98 per cent of its population. Their average density is 383 persons. The third quartile districts exhibit density variation from 155 to 270 these together occupy 33.83 per cent of the country's area and house 24.9 per cent of its population exhibiting average density value of 204.

The fourth quartile consists of districts with population dense below 155 persons (average density being 83 persons). These districts contribute 35.02 per cent of the country's area and shelter 11.37 per cent of population. Above description clearly highlight that there is much variation in the spatial pattern o density in the country and also there is heavy con­centration of population in some selected areas.

On the basis of preceding discussion weak have three areas of population density in the coun­try-

(1) Areas of High Population Density

This category includes such areas of the coun­try where the density of population is more than persons per square kilometer.

It stretches over districts of the country. Of these 22 districts recon higher density than 1000 persons, 88 districts be­tween 500 and 1000 and 70 districts between 350 and 500 persons/per square kilometer. Maximum number of such districts lies in Uttar Pradesh (46), followed by Bihar (34), West Bengal (17), Kerala (11), Haryana (11), and Tamil Nadu (11). The area includes traditional Hindi speaking belt, covering large parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Delhi and adjoining areas of West Bengal. Within this belt there are a number of districts where the population density is more than 1000 persons/sq.km. Here men­tion may be made of Kolkata (23,669 persons/sq.km), Haora (2535), North 24 Parganas (1778), Hugli (1382), Patna (1132), Darbhanga (1101), Vaishali (1053), Kanpur Nagar (2397), Lucknow (1081), Delhi (6319), Chandigarh (5620).

The area has the longest history of settlement with dominance of agriculture in the economy. Other important high population density areas include the Malabar Coast, the Tamil Nadu uplands, Mahanadi delta (Orissa), Godavari delta (Andhra Pradesh) Bari and Bist Doabs (Punjab) and highly urbanised districts of Greater Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ahmadabad, Kheda, Indore, and Lakshadweep. Here besides agriculture, industrialization and urbanization have also played significant role in boosting up population density.

(2) Areas of Moderate Population Density

This category is characterised by population density between 150 and 350 persons/km2 and spreads over 161 districts of the country. This is a transi­tional area between the zones of high and low den­sity. It includes major parts of the peninsular region incorporating the states of Maharashtra (25 dis­tricts), Madhya Pradesh (20 districts), Karnataka (16 districts), Andhra Pradesh (14 districts), Tamil Nadu (9 districts), Gujarat (9 districts), Bihar (7 districts), Orissa (7 districts), and Kerala (2 dis­tricts). Another sizable area of moderate density covers the northern and eastern parts of Rajasthan (13 districts), southern parts of Himachal Pradesh (6 districts), Haryana (5 districts), and Punjab (4 dis­tricts). In the north-east it includes parts of Upper Assam (9 districts), Tripura (2 districts) and Sikkim (1 district).

These are the areas where the agriculture is handicapped by undulating topography and pau­city of water for irrigation but where the urban- industrial development is a pulling factor for the growth of population clusters. Some of these areas have been used to settle displaced population after Independence which has contributed substantially to their economic development.

(3) Areas of Low Population Density

In all there are 106 districts of the country included in this category wherein the population density is less than 150 persons per square kilometer. Madhya Pradesh (including Chhattisgarh) has the largest number of such districts (23), followed by Rajasthan (14), Arunachal Pradesh (11), Nagaland (7), Uttar Pradesh including Uttaranchal (6), Himachal Pradesh (6), Manipur (5), Meghalaya (5), Gujarat

(4) and Assam (4). There are 31 districts in the country where the population density is less than 50 persons per square km. The whole of Arunachal Pradesh (11 districts), Mizoram (3 districts), Andaman and Nicobar (2 districts) and half of Manipur districts) belong to this category.

The low dense areas suffer from physical handicaps like hilly rain, desert conditions, and marshy lands and forces tracks. The agriculture, in most of these areas, remained backward. The extensive soil erosion, p city of water and thick forests has been the nr obstacles to the development of agriculture. Most these areas are inhabited by tribal's whose live conditions are very poor. The agricultural development in some of these areas like Dandakarany Chambal Valley etc has been initiated to improve economic base of these areas, to initiate the process social upliftment and to remove regional impalas.

Hence, it may be concluded that the density population is highly correlated with the carrying capacity of the land. The top ten districts of hi density are the metropolitan centers having density of about 6000. High density is found in characterised with fertile soils and ample was resources.

The Indo-Ganga plain continues to be largest contiguous area of high density of population. Outside this region the coastal plains of Peninsular India and urban centers display hi densities. The vast expanse of the moderately curveted and thinly irrigated areas of the Peninsula plateau exhibit moderate population density, negative areas like the deserts and the mountains dissected plateau without much potentials for row­ing cultivation have very low density of population,

Column IV of table 27. V shows the estimate population density in AD 2016. This also indie an additional burden of 60 persons/sq. km between 2001-2016. This requires heavy investment in a culture and industries. As many as 10 states and union territories record higher densities than national average.

Similarly 8 states and 1 union territory record population density below 150 per sons/sq. km. Here Arunachal Pradesh records tin lowest density of 19 persons/sq km. followed Mizoram (60) and Andaman and Nicobar (62). Remaining states come under moderate densities. Here again West Bengal will have the highest per kilometer population density (1084), followed by Kerala (949) and Bihar (921). Amongst the union territories Delhi tops the list with population density of 14,166 while Andaman and Nicobar islands come at the bottom (62 persons/sq. km).

(4) Agricultural Density

Another important method to measure the pressure of population on land is through agricul­tural density which denotes pressure of agricultural population per square kilometer of cultivated area. The agricultural density for India was 478 persons/ square km of cultivated area in 1991 which was about 1.79 times of the arithmetic density (267 persons/sq km). Table 27.V shows that in all states of the country the value of agricultural density is higher than the arithmetic density.

There are 15 states in the country in which the value of agricul­tural density is more than double the value of arith­metic density. Highest value of agricultural density is found in Kerala (1014), followed by Manipur (919) and Goa (900). There are 16 states in the country in which the agricultural density is greater than the national average (478). These include areas occupying the parts of North India, coastal plains and some parts of the Peninsula. Lowest agricultural density is found in Rajasthan (249), followed by Madhya Pradesh (298), Sikkim (313) and Orissa (341).