Census India 1931: The Population Problem in Baluchistan
This article is an extract from
CENSUS OF INDIA, 1931
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 Baluchistan
Baluchistan, the most sparsely populated of any province of India, occupies an important strategical position between Afghanistan, India and Persia, while the peninsula and immediate hinterland of Gwadar on its south-west coast is in the possession of the Sultan of Muscat and excluded from the scope of the Census of India. The province consists of British Baluchistan, of Agency Territories, of Tribal areas and of the States of Kalat and Las Bela ; the Agency Territories are grouped with British Territory for administrative purposes and include four tahsils held on lease from the Khan of Kalat.
British Baluchistan covers 7 percent. only of the total area of the province and contains 16 per cent.of the total population,but these figures become 40 and 53 respectively if all the areas under British administration area added to what is strictly British territory. In an area so scattered that the charge of a single enumerator involved the travelling of distances of from 50 to 150 miles, a generally synchronous census was obviously an impossibility, and, the regular synchronized census on the standard schedule covered only 200 square miles and a population mostly alien. The difficulties of obtaining an accurate census are further enhanced by the nomadic character of the population, which is constantly moving from one part of the country to another in search of pasturage or work, and by the periodic movements not onl y of the local population towards Sind, Afghanistan or Persia in the autumn, but also of foreign nomads from Afghanistan into and through Baluchistan in the winter.
These nomads return in the spring, and in the summer Quetta with its cool climate is becoming a seasonal resort from the overbearing heat of Sind. The census therefore of Baluchistan is a census of her winter population and does not necessarily represent with any accuracy the population to he found there in the summer months, which the Census Superintendent estimates at 974,000. The mean density of Baluchistan is 6 persons per square mile, a little more than Tibet with 4 and about the same as Newfoundland exclusive of Labrador ; but this density falls in the Chagai district to 1 person per square mile. The decade started with a period of famine resulting from the drought of 1920-21 and although the years 1923-25 were good the later years were afflicted by locusts and the decade as a whole was below the usual level of prosperity.
As a result of famine and scarcity and of the damage done by the invading sands of the Chagai deserts, which bury and lay waste the cultivated areas to the south and east of them and choke both sources and channels of irrigation, the province lost some thousands of its scanty indigenous population by migration. Prices ruled high until 1930 when they fell to a level phenomenally low. Health was poor and to the disease which naturally follows famine conditions were added serious epidemics of cholera, small-pox and measles. A general increase of motor traffic has almost caused the disappearance of animal-drawn vehicles during the decade, and 132 miles have been added to railways. The population increased by 69,000, of which 39,500 represents a natural increase, but the phenomenal increase of 45.5 per cent. in the Tribal Areas is not entirely beyond suspicion, and if the natural population of Baluchistan be alone considered, the 1911 figure has not yet been recovered.
The population is far from uniform in character comprising as it does Brahui, Baloch, Lasi and Makrani with their satellite tribes of Loris, Dehwars, Langahs and Naqibs to say nothing of Pathans and Jatts and Persians. The country is of great historical importance and the researches in recent years of Sir Aurel Stein indicate that Baluchistan was once a fertile country supporting a large population, where it now offers a scanty subsistence steadily dwindling under the encroaching sand.