Chhattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutt has sought details from the State government on the declining population trends in six Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected districts of Koriya, Dakshin Bastar, Dantewada, Bijapur, Sukma, Jashpur and Kanker as reflected in the Provisional Census 2011 figures.

The State government says while it would wait for a more detailed analysis of the final Census reports when published by the Registrar General of India, it is not averse to an independent population survey in these districts.

Of the 18 districts in Chhattisgarh, three have registered growth rates much higher than the State average of 22.59 per cent in 2011, while six Naxalite-affected districts have shown a low decadal growth rate, sparking off a debate on the reasons behind the decline and even the authenticity of the Census exercise in these areas.

The matter is also likely to come up at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) full commission sitting at Raipur on April 11 and 12 when it also takes up 28 other cases of human rights violations including unethical removal of wombs to claim money under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana.

Though the issue of declining population trends is not listed in the agenda, several non-governmental organisations and civil society representatives have decided to take up the matter during their meeting with the Commission members on April 12 and demand an independent survey in these districts. The civil society representatives argue that a decline in the population could also be because the enumerators never went to the remote and totally “occupied” villages.

In Bijapur district, the decadal population growth rate is 8.76 per cent, in Dantewada it is 11.9 per cent, Sukma — a new district carved out of Dantewada — has a growth rate of just 8.09 per cent, in Koriya it is 12.40 per cent, Jashpur’s population is growing at 14.65 per cent while it is highest in Kanker at 15.01 per cent.

Alternatively, industrial towns like Raipur, Bilaspur, Janjgir-Champa and Kabeerdham have grown at 34.59 per cent, 33.2 per cent, 23 per cent, and 40.6 per cent.

The Collectors of these districts have been asked to send a detailed analysis of the population growth decline. Based on the input received from the Collectors, the government on its part is likely to tell the Commission that intra-State migration owing to employment opportunities and development prospects in the urban centres and even to bigger towns and towns for better education and employment could be the single reason for a decline in the population. The significant growth rate of newly created districts and more developed towns and cities do justify the logic.

So far, LWE is the only reason that can be attributed to a large scale migration during the last decade and at the same time a factor making any kind of survey very difficult in these areas, said a Collector of one of these districts who did not wish to be quoted. “We have re-started many schools now but there could be some [very few] villages, where the enumerators could not go because of fear of Naxalites,” he admitted.

The State government believes the scenario calls for an in-depth analysis, correlating the figures with that of the detailed Census figures and the Socio Economic and Caste Census for evolving a clear picture. If the Census figures also show some kind of discrepancy in the status of tribal population of the State, independent surveys can be taken up.

No cause for concern

However, it can be safely concluded from the available information that there are no other concern-causing factors like an epidemic, scarcity of food, dearth of sources for livelihood or existence of any other ‘push’ factor resulting in a mass exodus, the officials point out, while appreciating the reach of family planning awareness and contraceptive methods even in these areas which could have helped in controlling population.

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