Census India 1931: The Population Problem in Andaman and Nicobar Islands

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This article is an extract from


Report by

J. H. HUTTON, C.I.E., D.Sc., F.A.S.B.,

Corresponding Member of the Anthropologische Gesselschaft of Vienna.

Delhi: Manager of Publications


(Hutton was the Census Commissioner for India)

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The Population Problem in Andaman and Nicobar Islands

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which form the charge of a Chief Commissioner directly under the Government of India, the islands of Great Andaman are in the process of development from a penal to a free settlement,the aboriginal population being far on the road to extinction.

The density of the Andamans is Sentinel Island and Little Andaman are still inhabited by Andamanese only, and the Nicobars are likewise occupied almost entirely by Nicobarese except for a few foreign traders, who come to the islands for pearl shell, béchede- mer and coconuts, by an Assistant Commissioner and by a few police. The density of the Nicobars is 16'1 persons per square mile. The convict population which was and is by far the most numerous element in the population of the Andamans has been much reduced on account of the policy of abolishing transportation to the Andamans. The figures of the foreign population, including convicts and ex-convicts, show a steady increase of Burmese and Karens.

The climate suits them and they are accustomed to similar surroundings and the indications are that the permanent population of the islands will ultimately be predominately Burmese. The most striking figures for these islands are those for the indigenous Negrito population which has shown a decrease respectively of 42, 30, 40 and 41 per cent. at each successive census of this century and a total decrease of over 75 per cent. since 1901 alone. If the present rate of decrease continue much longer the Andamanese will be extinct by the end of this century. The Census Superintendent in his report is content to damn with faint praise the policy of civilizing the aborigines and the institution of the ' Andaman Home ', but that policy, now abandoned, resulted in the space of 7 decades in a greater curtailment of human life than the Andamanese themselves are likely to have effected by their more direct methods in as many centuries. In the Nicobars on the other hand, whence the penal settlement was removed in 1888, there has been an increase of 10.4 per cent.

Since 1921 in spite of the deficiency of females, who are only 881 to every 1,000 males. The ratio of females to males has increased by 112 per mille since 1921 when the ratio was 769 females per 1,000 males, and by 40 per mille during the present century. If Nicobarese of tribal religion alone be examined the increase in the sex ratio is from 866 females per 1,000 males in 1921 to 939 in 1931.

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