Census India 1931: The Population Problem in Bombay

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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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Census India 1931: The Population Problem in Bombay

Bombay in 1921 included the area which in 1931 was enumerated as the Western India States Agency, and on this occasion therefore its area was reduced to 151,593 square miles (excluding Aden), having a population of 26,347,519 and a mean density of 174. Even with this reduction Bombay remains larger than any province except Burma and Madras.

It comprises not only the British districts of the Bombay Presidency proper, but the Bombay States and Agencies and Sind. Aden is separately treated in an individual volume (Vol. VIII, pt. 3), and includes the whole of the Aden Settlement and Perim, but not the Aden Protectorate. An entirely separate volume (IX) deals with the cities of the Bombay Presidency, which is far ahead of any other province in India in the proportion of its urban to rural population, if we exclude Delhi and Ajmer-Merwara, where the principal unit of the province is itself a town.


In Bombay City itself the population has actually fallen since 1921, partly probably because the economic depression which had set in by the census of 1931 had driven back to their homes the countrymen who normally come down to Bomba y to work during the cold weather and partly no doubt owing to suburban expansion, but every other unit in the confines of the Presidency proper has increased in population during the decade and the general rate of increase, 13.7 per cent., is well above that of India as a whole. In the case of the cities the increase was probably greater than that actually shown, since the municipal authorities did not in all cases co-operate whole-heartedly, while some were definitely obstructive. In Surat, Kaira, Villeparle and Broach at any rate the enumeration was probably defective, and at Ahmadabad it was made impossible to carry it out at all in many parts of the city.

For that town therefore an estimate has been made of the numbers not enumerated and added to the actual returns for the purposes of all tables in which details b y religion, age, etc., are not required. Aden alone has fallen while the Bombay 'States and, even more, Sind have increased at a higher rate than the province as a whole, though Sind has been visited by disastrous floods and in 1929-30 revenue to the extent of Rs. 57,71,940 had to be remitted on account of damage by locusts.

In marked contrast to all the decades since 1891 no district has suffered from a single very bad season during the whole period under review. Five seasons of the ten were good and five were moderate, and the fact that the prices of food grains fell more slowly than most others while cotton remained exceptionally high was of great benefit to the cultivator.

At the same time wages and the demand for labour showed a tendency to rise rather than to fall until 1930, and then did not fall proportionately to the drop in prices. In the towns the decade was also one of prosperity until 1927-28, and in the earlier half of the decade urban labour seems to have reached an unprecedented standard of comfort, but at the end of the period the trade depression, aggravated by the civil disobedience movement, caused 'much unemployment and discomfort.

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