Population Distribution, Density, Growth and Composition | Geography

The people are very important component of a country. India is the second most populous country after China in the world with its total population of 1.22 billion (2012). India’s population is larger than the total population of North America, South America and Australia put together. The first population Census in India was conducted in 1872 but its first complete Census was conducted only in 1881. Among the socio-economic and historical factors of distribution of population, important ones are evolution of settled agriculture and        agricultural development; pattern of human settlement; development of transport network, industrialisation and urbanisation. 

It is observed that the regions falling in the river plains and coastal areas of India have remained the regions of larger population concentration. Even though the uses of natural resources like land and water in these regions have shown the sign of degradation, the concentration of population remains high because of an early history of human settlement and development of transport network. On the other hand, the urban regions of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Jaipur have high concentration of population due to industrial development and urbanisation drawing a large numbers of rural-urban migrants.

Density of Population
Density of population, is expressed as number of persons per unit area. It helps in getting a better understanding of the spatial distribution of population in relation to land. The density of population in India (2011) is 364 persons per sq km and ranks second among the most densely populated countries of Asia following Bangladesh (849 persons). There has been a steady increase of about 250 persons per sq km over the last 50 years as the density of population increased from 117 persons/ sq km in 1951 to 364 persons/sq km in 2011.

Variation of population densities in the country which ranges from as low as 13 persons per sq km in Arunachal Pradesh to 9,340 persons in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Among the northern Indian States, West Bengal (1030), Bihar (1102) and Uttar Pradesh (828) have higher densities, while Kerala (859) and Tamil Nadu (555) have higher densities among the peninsular Indian states. States like Assam, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Orissa have moderate densities. The hill states of the Himalayan region and North eastern states of India (excluding Assam) have relatively low densities while the Union Territories (excluding Andaman and Nicobar islands) have very high densities of population.

Growth of Population
Growth of population is the change in the number of people living in a particular area between two points of time. Its rate is expressed in percentage. Population growth has two components namely; natural and induced. While the natural growth is analysed by assessing the crude birth and death rates, the induced components are explained by the volume of inward and outward movement of people in any given area. The decadal and annual growth rates of population in India are both very high and steadily increasing over time. The annual growth rate of India’s population is 2.4 per cent. At this current rate of increase, it is estimated that the country’s population will double itself in another 36 years and even surpass population of China.

Population Doubling Time
Population doubling time is the time taken by any population to double itself at its current annual growth rate. The growth rate of population in India over the last one century has been caused by annual birth rate and death rate and rate of migration and thereby shows different trends. There are four distinct phases of growth identified within this period:

Phase I : The period from 1901-1921 is referred to as a period of stagnant or stationary phase of growth of India’s population, since in this period growth rate was very low, even recording a negative growth rate during 1911-1921. Both the birth rate and death rate were high keeping the rate of increase low. Poor health and medical services, illiteracy of people at large and inefficient distribution system of food and other basic necessities were largely responsible for a high birth and death rates in this period.

Phase II : The decades 1921-1951 are referred to as the period of steady population growth. An overall improvement in health and sanitation throughout the country brought down the mortality rate. At the same time better transport and communication system improved distribution system. The crude birth rate remained high in this period leading to higher growth rate than the previous phase. This is impressive at the backdrop of Great Economic Depression, 1920s and World War II.

Phase III : The decades 1951-1981 are referred to as the period of population explosion in India, which was caused by a rapid fall in the mortality rate but a high fertility rate of population in the country. The average annual growth rate was as high as 2.2 per cent. It is in this period, after the Independence, that developmental activities were introduced through a centralised planning process and economy started showing up ensuring the improvement of living condition of people at large. Consequently, there was a high natural increase and higher growth rate. Besides, increased international migration bringing in Tibetans, Bangladeshis, Nepalies and even people from Pakistan contributed to the high growth rate.

Phase IV : In the post 1981 till present, the growth rate of country’s population though remained high, has started slowing down gradually. A downward trend of crude birth rate is held responsible for such a population growth. This was, in turn, affected by an increase in the mean age at marriage, improved quality of life particularly education of females in the country. The growth rate of population is, however, still high in the country, and it has been
projected by World Development Report that population of India will touch 1,350 million by 2025.

An important aspect of population growth in India is the growth of its adolescents. At present the share of adolescents i.e. up to the age group of 10-19 years is about 22 per cent (2001), among which male adolescents constitute 53 per cent and female adolescents constitute 47 per cent.

Population Composition
Population composition is a distinct field of study within population geography with a vast coverage of analysis of age and sex, place of residence, ethnic characteristics, tribes, language, religion, marital status, literacy and education, occupational characteristics, etc. In this section, the composition of Indian population with respect to their rural-urban characteristics, language, religion and pattern of occupation will be discussed.

Rural – Urban Composition
Composition of population by their respective places of residence is an important indicator of social and economic characteristics. This becomes even more significant for a country where about 72 per cent of its total population lives in villages. India has 638,588 villages according to the Census 2001 out of which 593,731 (93 per cent) are inhabited villages.

The size of villages also varies considerably. It is less than 200 persons in the hill states of north-eastern India, Western Rajasthan and Rann of Kuchchh and as high as 17 thousand persons in the states of Kerala and in parts of Maharashtra.The proportion of urban population (27.8 per cent) in India is quite low but it is showing a much faster rate of growth over the decades. In fact since 1931, the growth rate of urban population has accelerated due to enhanced economic development and improvement in health and hygienic conditions.

Linguistic Composition
India is a land of linguistic diversity. There were 179 languages and as many as 544 dialects in the country. In the context of modern India, there are about 18 scheduled languages (1991 census) and a number of nonscheduled languages. Among the scheduled languages, the speakers of Hindi have the highest percentage (40.42). The smallest language groups are Kashmiri and Sanskrit speakers (0.01 per cent each).

Religious Composition
Religion is one of the most dominant forces affecting the cultural and political life of the most of Indians. Hindus are distributed as a major group in many states (ranging from 70 - 90 per cent and above) except the districts of states along Indo- Bangladesh border, Indo-Pak border, Jammu & Kashmir, Hill States of North-East and in scattered areas of Deccan Plateau and Ganga Plain. Muslims, the largest religious minority, are concentrated in Jammu & Kashmir, certain districts of West Bengal and Kerala, many districts of Uttar Pradesh , in and around Delhi and in Lakshadweep. They form majority in Kashmir valley and Lakshadweep.

The Christian population is distributed mostly in rural areas of the country. The main concentration is observed along the Western coast around Goa, Kerala and also in the hill states of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Chotanagpur area and Hills of Manipur.

Sikhs are mostly concentrated in relatively small area of the country, particularly in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. Jains and Buddhists, the smallest religious groups in India have their concentration only in selected areas of the country.

It is observed that in India, the proportion of workers (both main and marginal) is only 39 per cent (2001) leaving a vast majority of 61 per cent as non-workers. This indicates an economic status in which there is a larger proportion of dependent population, further indicating possible existence of large number of unemployed or under employed people. About 58.2 per cent of total working population are cultivators and agricultural labourers, whereas only 4.2% of workers are engaged in household industries and 37.6 % are other workers including nonhousehold industries, trade, commerce, construction and repair and other services.

India occupies 2.4% of the world's land area and supports over 17.5% of the world's population. India is projected to be the world's most populous country by 2025, surpassing China. Its population growth rate is 1.41%, ranking 102nd in the world in 2010. India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% hovers below the age of 35. It is expected that, in 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years, compared to 37 for China and 48 for Japan; and, by 2030, India's dependency ratio should be just over 0.4.

Decadal growth rate calculation : P2 - P1/P2 * 100 where P2 is the population of present year and P1 is the population of base year.

Physiological density = total population /net cultivated area
Agricultural density = total agricultural population / net cultivable area.
Most populus states : UP > Maharashtra > Bihar > WB > AP > MP > TN
Least populus states : Sikkim < Mizoram < Arunachal Pradesh < Goa
Top literacy states : Kerala(94%) > Lakshadweep(93%) > Mizoram(91%) > Thripura(87%)
Least literacy states : Bihar(63%) > Arunachal(67%) > Rajasthan(67%) > Jharkhand(67%)

Largest linguistic groups of India are Indo–Aryan-73% and Dravidian-20%

source : NCERT Class 12 - Geography. Unit I, Chapter 1