Demographic Condition

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A Detailed Discussion on India’s Demographic Condition

The census of 1881 tells us about the demographic condition in colonial India in light of population in British India. In the following article, we will go through several aspects of British India demographics. It also focuses on the demographic condition meaning. It also aimed at unveiling the inequality in the population of India at the time of independence. After 1881, the census was performed every ten years. India was in a demographic transformation mode before 1921. It is suggested to go through the following article minutely to know the actual demographic condition in colonial India.


British India Demographics: A Brief Overview

India was going through a demographic transformation before 1921. The second phase of demographic transformation started after 1921. In this phase cumulative population along with the population increase rate were very low. Social development factor was also not very promising. The literacy rate was down at only 16% out of which the female literacy rate was just 7%. People couldn’t access public health facilities very easily.


On the other hand, there was a very high rate of mortality. The infant mortality rate was very alarming. If we calculate the infant mortality rate based on the present-day scenario, it was almost 5 times from now. Invariably, there was a very low level of life expectancy rate. The calculation of life expectancy rate based on current data tells that it was almost half from now.


Rate of poverty is one of the major characteristics to define the demographic condition in colonial India. But, the poverty rate is not available due to a lack of data. But, it can be predicted from the other factors that there was a huge level of poverty. The demographic condition was so poor that people died from water and airborne diseases. The entire situation worsened the condition of the population of India at the time of independence.


Major Characteristics of British India Demographics:

Demographic condition meaning is just the situation of the people of India in the light of several factors. The demographic condition of British-ruled India can be summarised by the following facts:

  • Low Level of Literacy Rate: The rate of literacy was almost 16% out of which the rate of female literacy was about 7%. It is the lowest of all time as compared to the 74% literacy rate of current India.

  • Poor Standard of Living: Population of India at the time of independence had to spend almost 80% to 90% of earning to maintain necessities such as food, cloth and shelter. It was not at all sufficient to satisfy their requirements. Few portions of India were harshly affected by acute famines and numerous people died because of this. Among these, the worst famine occurred in West Bengal in 1943.

  • High Level of Birth and Death Rate: Number of children born per thousand people in a year defines the birth rate. The number of people dying per thousand people in a year defines the death rate. British India demographics exhibit very high levels of birth rates as well as death rates. 

  • Bad Health Facilities: Most of the population of India at the time of independence could not access the public health facilities. Consequently, the mortality rate was high due to numerous water and air-borne diseases.

  • A High Rate of Infant Mortality: The number of infants dying before attaining one year age per 1000 live births in a year is termed as infant mortality. Poverty and high infant mortality rate occurred due to lack of sufficient public health facilities, deadly natural calamities and famine. The infant mortality rate was 218 out of 1000.

  • Low Level of Life Expectancy: Life expectancy rate is defined as the standard life of a person. Life expectancy rate was about 32 years.

Did You Know?

  • It was the colonization which reduced India to a feeder economy.

  • Few prominent figures in conducting the first census of India were Findlay Shirras, Dadabhai Naoroji, V.K.R.V. Rao.

  • The British lawmakers were not in the mood of conducting a census of India.

  • The population of a certain area will increase if there is a high birth rate and low death rate.

  • The demographic condition of India has been developing since its independence in 1947.

  • The demographic condition in colonial India is one of the darkest episodes in the nation’s history.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What was the Occupational Structure of Colonial India?

Ans: One of the closest factors related to the demographic condition in colonial India is the occupational structure. It is simply the allotment of working people in different segments and industries. At the time of colonialism, the maximum workforce of the country was absorbed by the agricultural sector. The percentage was almost 70% to 75%. There were 10 and 15-20% of the workforce worked in the manufacturing and services sector respectively. The occupational structure of colonial India was largely controlled by the geographical variations in the parts of the country. Most of the agriculture sector was confined to West Bengal, Punjab, Rajasthan and Odisha because of the nature of the land.

2. What are the Factors Involved in the Study of the Demographic Condition?

Ans: The study of the demographic condition involves factors like age, race and sex. The statistical representation of the socio-economic information is termed as the demography. Apart from the main three factors as discussed above the other factors involved in the study of demography are employment, income, education, marriage rates, birth and death rates. Currently, the factors are calculated by the National Sample Survey Organization. It is very much significant in terms of deriving the socio-economic condition of a particular country. The next census is due in India in the year 2021.

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