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Flawed population census: A challenge to policy makers
Oct 3
Published on 3 Oct. 2009 11:50 PM IST
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Nagaland one of the least economically developed state in India has set a great record in recent time in the field of population growth, which is a great challenge to the policy makers and our sustainable resources. If we are to believe the recently released decadal growth rate of population in Nagaland published in Nagaland post dated 21st Sept 2009, the big question is “how to feed the growing population with limited resources”? If the population continues to grow at the present rate than, approximately 77909 thousand persons is added every year and by 2010 our population will be approximately 2767726 lakhs with population density of 167 persons per sq. km. And by 2020 the state population will reach approximately 3546816 lakhs with population density of 214 persons per sq. km. With more than 70% of population depending directly or indirectly on land for livelihood, the state will encounter the hardest time dealing with the problems relating population issues. Even at the present time problems relating to population growth is witnessed in the form of pressure on forest for settlement, agriculture activities, firewood collection, increasing unemployed youth etc. By 2020 as the population and density double the problems will be more severe. It is a clear warning that our future is not secure. If we are to go with 21st September 2009 Nagaland Post publication than, with +200 persons per sq. km in 2020 Nagaland will enter the new era of Overpopulation. Overpopulation means, where any living organism’s numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat. In common parlance, the term usually refers to the relationship between the human population and its environment. It does not only refer to the size or density of the population, but on the ratio of population to available sustainable resources. For instance, an environment has a population of 50 individuals, but if the sustainable resource is enough for only 49 individuals and where no trade is possible, that environment is said to be overpopulated. But if the individual is 100 and there are enough resources to feed 200 individuals for the indefinite future, then it is not overpopulated. Overpopulation is the direct result of an increasing births rate, decline in mortality rates due to advance medical facility, increased in immigration etc. But in the context of Nagaland what well be the reasons? Is it because of highly advanced medical facility, high fertility rate, ignorant, religion impact, tradition believes, immigration, or is it because of some technical mistake in census? On 29th September 2009, a local daily issues some anomalous detected in the census. It was mentioned that in 1991 the age group between 0 and 9 was 295162 lakhs but in 2001 as they reached the age of 10 to 19 the figure has increased to 549325 lakhs which means there is an addition of 254161 persons. Where did the additional persons come from? Media has given enough reason to support it. But in supplement to it, the main reason could be multiplication of person. Supposing a man works in Kohima or any other district headquarters or in subdivisions leaving behind families in villages, he enrolled his name in working place as well as in the village so he is counted twice in the census. Likewise if a man’s daughter or son study or work outside(within state) they got enrolled twice. Some people even got three to four names, like working place, permanent place, village etc. If these methods are applied in every place in Nagaland, definitely the actual 100000 lakh population will turn up to 200000 to 300000 lakhs in census figures. If the census is taken accurately the population of Nagaland according to 2001 census will come around 1000000 lakhs to 1200000 lakhs. The issue of population growth is not a new phenomenon, even in the ancient times great philosophers like Kautilya, Aristotle, Confucius, Tertullian etc has voiced their concern about population growth. Kautilya, a political philosopher (c.350 – 283 BC), considered “Population as a source of political, economic and military strength. Thought a latter possibility to be the greater evil. He favored the remarriage of widows, opposed taxes that encourage emigration and believed that asceticism should be restricted to the age”. Aristotle (384-322BC) said a large increase in population could bring “certain poverty on the citizenry and poverty is the cause of sedition and evil”. To halt rapid population increase, He advocated the use of abortion and exposition of newborns. Confucius (551 to 478 BC) cautioned that “excessive growth may reduce output per worker, repress levels of livings for the masses and engender strife”. He also observed that “mortality increase when food supply is insufficient, that permanent marriage makes for high infantile mortality rates, that war checks population growth”. Tertullian (ca AD 160-220) said “the strangest witness is the vast population of the earth to which we are a burden and she scarcely can provides for our needs, as our demand growth greater, our complaints against nature’s inadequacy are heard by all. The scourges of pestilence, famine, wars and earthquakes have come to be regarded as a blessing to overcrowded nations, since they serve to prune away the luxuriant growth of the human race”. In the middle ages in Christian Europe, population issues were rarely discussed in isolation. Attitudes were generally pro-natalist in line with the Biblical command “Be ye fruitful and Multiply”. Throughout the 16th and 17th century discussions on the advantage and disadvantages of population growth were frequent. Giovanni Botero, an Italian priest and diplomat (1546 – 1617) emphasized that “the greatness of a city rests on the multitude of its inhabitants and their power”, but pointed out that a population cannot increase beyond its food supply. If this limit was approached late marriage, emigration and war would serve to restore a balance. Niccolo Machiavelli, an Italian Renaissance political Philosopher, wrote “when every province of the world so teems with inhabitants that they can neither subsist where they are nor remove themselves elsewhere. The world will purge itself in one or another of these three ways” listing floods, plague and famine. Martin Luther, a German monk and theologian (1483 -1564) concluded on the issue “God makes children, He is going to feed them”. Suggestion: Before the coming or invention of new technology for counting accurate population, manual methods have to be applied. To get 100% accuracy in population census is a herculean task. Following are some few suggestions, 1. Census should start from the grass root level (village). Most of the people who have settled (Permanent or Temporary) in town today are from village. They may still have houses and parents in village. To avoid double counting the enumerator have to be very careful while enter the name and members of the particular family in the village. Example (i) In Village ‘A’ a man have 10 children but if all the children are married the enumerator have to enter only two names (Father and Mother). Example (ii) In Village ‘B’ a young couple has 10 children but 5 children are studying or working outside (within state). In this case the enumerators have to carefully enter all the children’s name. 2. In towns, many people stay in rented house coming from other towns and villages. Here the enumerators have to follow some important measures. In the case of house owners and tenant (with family). (i) Ask the name of their village or the place they migrated from? (ii) If he/she is from villages ‘A’ or ‘B’ check the list whether their name has been entered or no? (iii) After the verification use the same methods applied in village. In the case of students and single persons living in town. (i)Ask the name of the village or the place they migrated from? (ii) Ask the name of their Parents? (iii) If He/ she is from Village ‘A’ and their parents name is Mr & Mrs John, find the name of Mr. John in the list and checked whether His /her name is entered or no? (iv) After the verification used the same methods applied in the village. 3. For age wise population groups, to get accuracy is another big task because in our state many people have tempered their age and in some case parents don’t want to mention the exact age of their child. In this case referring the church birth registration can give some accuracy if at all the church maintains birth registration. Population growth is not a new issue as we have seen. But unfortunately this is the first time in our state where the issues of populations growth is been discussed. Definitely some unavoidable mistake has been committed in census, but it has opened our eyes and mind to see how dangerous random population growth can be to our livelihood. It is never too late for mitigation measures because the symptom in still in developing stage. Soyhunlo Sebu, Ph.D Scholar, Deptt. of Geography, Nagaland University, Lumami.

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