Not all rosy

Not all rosy

The final figures thrown up from Census 2011 are in. They give reason for hope in some areas even as they provide pointers to an ever-worsening agrarian crisis.

India’s population now exceeds 1.2 billion and while the population is growing, it is doing so at a declining rate. There is good news on the literacy front; 73 per cent of Indians are literate today compared with 64.8 per cent in 2001. What is more, female literacy has grown at almost twice the rate (10.9 per cent) as that among men. It is heartening that the gap between male and female literacy is narrowing. However, misogyny in post-independence India has never been more intense as evident from the child sex ratio. It has touched an all-time low, dipping from 927 females to 919 females per 1,000 males. But overall sex ratio has shown a marginal improvement.
On the face of it, things seem to be looking up for rural India. It appears to be slowly catching up with cities. The gap between urban literacy and rural literacy, for instance, is shrinking. However, things are far from fine in rural India as evident from the huge fall in the absolute number of cultivators. The proportion of cultivators to the rural workforce has fallen steadily since 1971. However for the first time in four decades, so steep is the fall in the proportion of cultivators that it has reflected in a massive fall in their absolute numbers as well. The number of cultivators has declined from 127 million in 2001 to 118 million in 2011. Some would argue that this fall is not such a bad thing. With land being put to other use, cultivators could be moving to other jobs, perhaps more lucrative than tilling the land.  However, figures suggest that many are becoming menial labourers -- the proportion of labourers has grown by 3 per cent to 30 percent of the total workforce. It represents a deterioration in the socio-economic status of former cultivators.

Successive governments have approached the worsening agrarian crisis by tackling its symptoms. Census 2011 reveals that this superficial approach is dragging rural India towards a man-made disaster of immense proportions.  Decision makers must examine honestly the figures thrown up by Census 2011 to craft their policies. Giving the growing rural-urban migration and the fall in the number of cultivators a positive spin may make policy makers feel good. In the medium and long term it will only contribute to newer, more intense conflicts.
 

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