Demographic Background


The Census of India 2001, is historic and epoch making, being the first census of the twenty-first century and the third millennium. It reveals benchmark data on the state of abundant human resources available in the country, their demography, culture and economic structure at a juncture, which marks a centennial and millennial transition.

The population enumeration of 2001 census was undertaken during 9-28 February 2001, with a revisional round from 1-5 March 2001. The Census moment, the referral time at which the snapshot of the population is taken, was 00.00 hours of the 1 March 2001. Until the 1991 Census, the sunrise of 1 March was taken to be the census moment. The houseless population, as has been the usual practice, was enumerated on the night of 28 February 2001.



India's population as on 1 March 2001 stood at 1,028 million (532.1 million males and 496.4 million females). India accounts for a meagre 2.4 per cent of the world surface area of 135.79 million sq km. Yet, it supports and sustains a whopping 16.7 per cent of the world population.

The population of India, which at the turn of the twentieth century was around 238.4 million, increased to reach 1,028 million at the dawn of the twenty-first century. The population of India as recorded at each decennial census from 1901 has grown steadily except for a decrease during 1911-21.

The per cent decadal growth of population in the inter-censal period 1991-2001 varies from a low of 9.43 in Kerala to a very high 64.53 in Nagaland. Delhi with 47.02 per cent, Chandigarh with 40.28 per cent and Sikkim with 33.06 per cent registered very high growth rates. In addition to Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh registered low growth rates during 1991-2001.

Population Density

One of the important indices of population concentration is the density of population. It is defined as the number of persons per sq km. The population density of India in 2001 was 324 per sq km.

The density of population was increased in all States and Union Territories between 1991 and 2001. Among major states, West Bengal is still the most thickly populated state with a population density of 903 in 2001. Bihar is now the second highest densely populated state, pushing Kerala to the third place.

Sex Ratio

Sex ratio, defined, as the number of females per thousand males, is an important social indicator to measure the extent of prevailing equality between males and females in a society at a given point of time. The sex ratio in the country had always remained unfavourable to females. It was 972 at the beginning of the twentieth century, and thereafter showed continuous decline until 1941.


For the purpose of census 2001, a person aged seven and above, who can both read and write with understanding in any language, is treated as literate. A person, who can only read but cannot write, is not literate. In the censuses prior to 1991, children below five years of age were necessarily treated as illiterates.

The provisional results of 2001 reveal that there has been an increase in literacy in the country. The literacy rate in the country is 64.84 per cent, 75.26 for males and 53.67 for females.

Kerala retained its position by being on top with a 90.86 per cent literacy rate, closely followed by Mizoram (88.80 per cent) and Lakshadweep (86.66 per cent). Bihar with a literacy rate of 47.00 per cent ranks last in the country, preceded by Jharkhand (53.56 per cent), and Jammu and Kashmir (55.52 per cent). Kerala also occupies the top spot in the country, both in male literacy with 94.24 per cent, and female literacy with 87.72 per cent. On the contrary, Bihar has recorded the lowest literacy rates, both in case of males (59.68 per cent), and females (33.12 per cent).



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