Census India 1931: The Population Problem in North-West Frontier Province

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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 Punjab

The Punjab is the eighth province in India in area, but with the Punjab States Agency fourth in area, sixth in density and fifth in population. It has an area of 136.964 square miles with a mean density of 208, but this includes not only British districts and the Punjab States but also the Punjab States Agency, a separate unit though treated in the same volume.

Taken separately British territory has a population of 23,580,852 with a density of 238 over 99,265 square miles. The area appears in the tables as 99.200 the revised figure having been received too late for incorporation, a condition which also explains the appearance of the area 5,820 in Table I as that of the Punjab States instead of the revised area 5,292 square miles with a population of 437,787 and a density of 83. The Punjab States Agency has an area of 32,407 square miles, a population of 4,472,218 and a mean density of 138. The increase in the Punjab population during the last 40 years is well illustrated by the density of Lvailpur district which was 15 per square mile in 1891 and is now 368. The last decade has seen the highest rate of increase yet recorded.


It has been a healthy decade, the first half in particular, though in the second half there were plague epidemics in 1924 and 1926, while in 1926 and 1928 there were localized epidemics of cholera. The birth rate, twice that of the United Kingdom, has remained consistently high. Agriculturally the decade has been prosperous.

The Sutlej canal s ystem in 1921 fed the Sirhind Canal only ; it now irrigates large tracts in Multan, yLahore, Ferozepore and Montgomery districts and in Bahawalpur State, as well as in Bikaner in Rajputana.

In the Punjab as a whole canal irrigation has extended by over 19 per cent. and has added 2,000,000 :; cres of irrigated land during the decade, though a drawback to irrigation has apps .red in the tendency towards the rise of the subsoil water level, which forces up from below salts which make the surface soil unfit for cultivation. Agricultural wages remained high until 1928 and have not fallen so rapidly as prices. Agricultural credit has increased its capital from 216.13 lakhs in 1921 to 817 . 91 in 1931 and its owned capital from 113 to 317 lakhs, and an indication of agricultural prosperity is to be found in the rise by 22 per cent in the price of agricultural land. There has been a spread of improved varieties of wheat, cotton and sugar-cane and a great advance in the local manufacture of cane mills, ploughs, irrigation wheels and other agricultural implement,* In 1921 the Census Superintendent remarked on the noticeable absence of any local manufacture of agricultural implements, but now at Batala, in Gurdaspur, alone there are 21 iron-foundries with an annual output of over 19,000 implements valued at Rs. 537,000.

The comparative prosperity and high prices of the earlier part of the decade led to increased interest and activity in the formation of joint stock companies, and factories increased from 297 with 42,428 hands to 526 with 49,549 hands. The extraction of petroleum and the manufacture of cement from limestone have been started in Attock district within the decade, while the Mandi hydro-electric scheme now just completed is likely to hasten the industrialization of the province by the plentiful supply of cheap power.

It remains to mention the rural uplift movement started in Gurgaon district in 1931 by Mr. Brayne and taken up elsewhere by the Y. M. C. A. which has also opened in Lahore a broadcasting station which already transmits to 1,500 receivers.

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