Indian Decade

India’s Population Asset

India’s latest census figures show the country’s population has risen by 181 million since 2001.

Population can be a key basis for determining the strengths and weaknesses of a nation. For example, a country that somehow managed to acquire the world’s highest per capita income, unrivalled infrastructure and modern weaponry, but which had a population in the six or seven figure range, could never be a global leader. This suggests that although India’s growing population offers some cause for concern in terms of economic development, it is still ultimately a major strategic asset.

The latest census numbers that have just been released offer an interesting snapshot of just where policymakers will need to be focusing their attention as they try to build on this population asset.

India’s current population is now about 1.21 billion—about the same as the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan combined. This marks a rise of about 181 million from 2001, an increase that alone is more than the population of shrinking Japan.

According to the provisional figures of the 2011 census, released last week by union Home Secretary GK Pillai and Registrar General of India C Chandramouli, the literacy rate has climbed from 64.83 percent in 2001 to 74.04 percent in 2011. Of the increase in the number of literate Indians, a little over 110 million were female, while 107 million were male. 

One other interesting fact: Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state, with a population of 199.5 million. If it were an independent nation, this would make it the sixth most populous state in the world.