Census India 1931: The Population Problem in Madras

From Indpaedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Hindi English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

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)

Indpaedia is an archive. It neither agrees nor disagrees
with the contents of this article.
Secondly, this has been scanned from a book. You can help by
sending the corrected version/ additional information to
the Facebook community, Indpaedia.com.
All information used will be duly acknowledged.

Census India 1931: The Population Problem in Madras

Madras covering 142,277 sq. miles populated by 46,740,107 persons, is second among the major provinces in area, third in population and fifth in density (329), but in rate of increase seventh exceeding only Bengal and the United Provinces the higher population figure of which it is fast overhauling. Its rate of increase for the decade was-10 . 4 in British territory, a little less than the -general rate of the whole Indian Empire. The total irrigated area has increased by some 66,000 acres, that is by 0.90 per cent. only, but important new works are projected. The decrease in the value of the crops raised has been nearly 46 per cent. which indicates not a fall in the quantity of the crop but in the level of prices. At the same time possibilities of agriculture on present methods have more or less reached a maximum and the Presidency can no longer feed itself.

The decade was healthy, and not only has it been free from epidemics but the skilled research of Colonel Russell, the Director of Public Health, has made it possible to cope with epidemics when they arise, and in the case of cholera to predict their occurrence and so to forestall their virulence. Cholera, which is endemic in the south of the Presidency, has proved to have a six-year cycle. The vital statistics of Madras are worthy of reference since this province is the only one whose registration of birth and death approaches anything like a satisfactory standard. Even so in 1930 some 62,000 unregistered births and 20,000 unregistered deaths were detected by inspecting officers in the Presidency. In some parts of Madras emigration takes place on a larger scale to Assam, Burma, Ceylon and Malaya, the annual loss being some 13,000, and though the decline in the planting industry has resulted in large numbers of returns, these had not had their full effect by the time the census took place, even from Burma. As in the accuracy of her vital statistics, Madras is ahead of other provinces in the matter of birth control.

A tendency is observed by the Census Superintendent for men at any rate to marry later, and contraceptive methods are advocated by influential persons and widely advertised in the press. The Census Superintendent writes " Ten years should show a marked growth in their popularity. Books on the subject are to be found in any bookstall or publisher's list and whether they are read as mild pornography or for serious guidance it is unlikely that they can fail to exert some influence ". He adds, as a portent, that contraception of a crude kind has been observed among the Goundans of Salem to prevent large families, the fragmentation of holdings and the weakening of the joint family system.

The external boundaries have not altered. Internally there have been some changes between districts the most important of which has been the re-absorption in the three neighbouring plains districts of the Agency Division, a hilly tract inhabited by Khonds, Sawaras, and similar hill tribes and quite alien to the plains districts which have absorbed it. The mean density is 329 but density varies greatly in different areas being only 89 persons to the square mile in the agency tracts and 471 on the west coast, though one district, the plains of Godavari East, on the Coromandel Coast reaches a higher density (660) than Malabar itself with 610.

There is a greater tendency to city life in Madras than in any major province but Bombay, but the towns are far less industrial in character than that of the latter province. Nevertheless signs of industrial development are appearing and cotton mills are springing up at small country centres supplied by the cotton growing areas they adjoin. Thus Pollachi, a small town in Comibatore district, had six mills in 1921 but thirty in 1931. Cheap power from water is a possibility and the use of electricity is steadily advancing in popularity, as the decade has seen many towns with oil lamps or no lamps adopt electric lighting and fans.

The standard of living is rising and in ten years the villager has " become accustomed to and takes as necessities what formerly were rather unlooked- for luxuries. The great advance in communications which the motor bus and car has brought has contributed enormously to widening horizons ".

Personal tools