The provisional Census 2011 figures suggest that two contrasting demographic “nations” are emerging in the country with all four south Indian States — Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu — already having achieved the replacement level fertility of 2.1 children per women required to initiate the process of population stabilisation, while the four large north Indian States — Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — have still a long way to go before they achieve the required level.

Analysing the Census 2011 data and its implications on the country, a paper brought out by the Management Institute of Population and Development — a unit of Parivar Seva Sanstha — argues that this emerging “demographic divide” could pose problems for socio-economic developments as well as unity of the country.

Replacement level fertility is the number of children a woman should have to replace herself and her mate for a stable population, and [it] has been fixed at 2.1 globally due to child mortality. A stable population is that where fertility and mortality are constant. This kind of population will show an unvarying age distribution and will grow at a constant rate.

Fall in death rate

“Implications of Emerging Demographic Scenario” (based on provisional results of Census of India 2011) says that India has been in the middle of the demographic transition over the past several decades where the death rate has fallen sharply because of improved public health as well as sanitation: but the birth rate has remained high due to slow progress towards socio-economic development as well as limited access to quality reproductive health and contraceptive services, especially in the four large north Indian States of Bihar, M.P, Rajasthan and U.P. That is the major cause of a spurt in population as well as the stalled demographic transition, it warns.

Last phase of transition

“However, the results of the last two censuses, especially the findings of the 2011 Census, clearly indicate that the country has entered the last phase of demographic transition, usually characterised by rapidly declining fertility. The crucial question is — how long will this phase extend and when will India achieve a stable population,” the paper says.

As per the National Population Policy, the set target is 2045, for which the replacement fertility level of 2.1 was to be achieved by 2010, which has not happened.

In 1951, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu had 26 per cent of India's population and by 2011, this figure declines to 21 per cent. Projections are that these States will account for only 16 per cent of the country's population in 2051. On the other hand, the population of four large north Indian States will increase from 37 per cent in 2011 to 44 per cent in 2051.

Low utilisation

The paper attributes the major reason behind the merging demographic scenario to the low utilisation of Reproductive and Child Health and Family Planning service in the four northern States.

As per the latest NFHS-3 data, the use of ante-natal and post-natal as well as family planning services is very low in these States as compared to the four large southern States. Further, only 17 per cent of eligible couples are protected by terminal methods (sterilisation) whereas the corresponding figure for Andhra Pradesh is more than 65 per cent.