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February 28, 2000
Poverty, education, employment levels: moderate
The number of poor people in India has remained more or less stable around 320 million despite a good decline in the percentage of people below the poverty line, according to the Economic Survey presented to Parliament today.
The survey quoted the latest estimates of poverty by the National Samples Survey which found that the percentage of people below poverty line came down from 54.9 in 1973-74 to 36 in 1993-94. In the rural areas, the decline is found to be from 56.4 per cent to 37.3 per cent during this period. (Persons who do not have the purchasing power to meet their own specified minimum calorie requirement of food are counted as those below the poverty line).
However, the decline in the percentage did not show up in the size of such poor lot due to the continuing population increase. The NSS survey cited relates to the one on consumer expenditure of 50th round (July 1993 to June 1994), the latest one available.
The next large sample NSS survey of consumer expenditure has been on from July 1999 and collection of data would be completed by July 2000. However, recent thin samples of household expenditure (not used for official poverty estimated because of their small smaple size) do not show clear positive trends in poverty reduction, the survey pointed out.
Fertility rate: It noted a decline in the total fertility rate from 6 in 1951 to 3.3 in 1997. The birth rate declined from 33.9 in 1981 to 26.4 per thousand population in 1998. The infant mortality rate came down from 110 in 1981 to 72 per thousnad live births in 1998.
Despite the steep fall in death rate from 27.4 in 1951 to 9 per thousand population in 1998, the average annual growth rate of population which has been steadily increasing from from 1.25 per cent in 1941-51 to 2.22 per cent in 1971-81, came down to 2.14 per cent in 1981-91.
The latest available Sample Registration System estimates indicate a natural increase of 1.74 per cent in 1998. It was, however, pointed out that if the averted births had taken place during 1981-91, the growth rate of population could have been 2.71 per cent per annum as against 2.14 per cent as enumerated in the census.
The latest estimates suggest that 330 million people will be added to the Indian population in the next 20-year period. The large size of the population in the reproductive age group is estimated to contribute 60 per cent of the anticipated population growth, followed by unmet needs of contraception and prevailing high IMR (20 per cent each).
Employment: The survey cites providing employment to the new additions to the labour force as well as to the unemployed backlog accumulated from the past as one of the most daunting challenges facing India . It advocates shifting the focus on employment strategies towards creating conditions whereby employment opportunites lead to significantly better living and working conditons.
The average annual growth rate of employment (both in the organised and unorganised sector) declined continuously from 2.75 per cent in the period 1972-78 to 1.77 per cent in 1983-88, but increased to 2.37 per cent in 1987-94.
The employment in public sector declined in 1998 whereas in organsied private sector it grew by 1.72 per cent. The rate of growth of employment however, both in the public and private sectors during 1998, was lower compared to the preceding year.
Literacy: The survey quoted the National Sample Survey Organisation to point out that the overall percentage of literacy in the country has increased from 52.2 per cent in 1991 to 62.1 per cent to 73 per cent. The female literacy has gone up from 39.3 per cent to 50 per cent during the same period.
The non-formal education launched by the literacy mission has enabled 72.56 million persons to read and write (upto 1998-99). Sixty per cent of them are women, 22.4 per cent those belonging to scheduled castes and 13.2 per cent scheduled tribes.
The survey pointed out that the country would need many more Indian Institutes of Technology and university teaching hospitals to meet the needs of the expanding population and the economic liberalisation and globalisation.
There are 228 universities and 6759 affiliated colleges as on 1996-97 (compared to 27 universities and 370 colleges in 1950-51) in the country. But the prime concern now is improving the quality of higher education to meet the demands and new skills of globalisation, the survey pointed out.
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