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Density spurt in dense Bengal

On Tuesday, when both Singur and Nandigram went to vote, a Jaipur-based NGO warned that the population density in Bengal is on an upward trend that it would create internal conflicts in the state. Subhendu Maiti reports.

kolkata Updated: May 04, 2011 15:25 IST
Subhendu Maiti

On Tuesday, when both Singur and Nandigram went to vote, a Jaipur-based NGO warned that the population density in Bengal is on an upward trend that it would create internal conflicts in the state.

The population per sqkm will shoot up from the existing 1,029 persons to 1,172 by 2021, creating more demand for additional resources like water, food, education, health, housing and many other basic issues.

“This sort of population growth will create internal conflicts in the state,” said Devendra Kothari, a professor in population programme management, on behalf of Forum for Population Action (FPA), an NGO.

Kothari was speaking at a seminar on Beyond the count — Key Facts from Census 2011 for West Bengal organised by Unicef. Over the past three years, while analysing Singur and Nandigram episodes, leaders and minister of Left Front has underscored an adverse land-man ratio as the root of these problems.

Both chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and industries minister Nirupam Sen would constantly refer to a high density of population automatically resulting in a scarcity of land for industry, in other words, a vital resource.

From the logic forwarded by Kothari, such population growth would result in a further effective shrinkage of resources.

Tuesday’s seminar criticised the Bengal government’s family welfare programme for failing to meet the overall management of reproductive and child healthcare system in the state.

Quoting a study on West Bengal entitled Implications of Findings of the Census of India 2011, Kothari said, “If the current trends of management in reproductive and child health care system continue, the population of West Bengal is expected to increase from 91.3 million in 2011 to 104 million in 2021, that is in the next 10 years — an increase of 14% or by 12.7 million during the decade.”

“Of the net addition of 12.7 million people, around 3 million will be the result of unwanted and unplanned child bearing. This sort of population and development pattern has already created and will create several internal conflicts in Bengal,” said Kothari in the seminar where Dilip Ghosh, mission director, National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and commissioner of state family welfare, and Dipak Ghosh, state director of census operations, were present.

He said the Andhra Pradesh government was able to bring significant changes in basic reproductive health variables by managing reproductive healthcare during the 90s.

This move in turn has improved the status of women in their participation in making decisions in domestic affairs.

The Andhra Pradesh government has made remarkable progress in reproductive health care because of their continuous political and administrative commitment, innovative programmes and government and non-government collaborations.

The consequences of unwanted pregnancies have serious implications on women empowerment. The level of female literacy in Bengal (71%) is much above the national average (65%). But its impact has not been reflected in the meaningful improvement as only 24% women in Bengal can participate in making decisions on their own health and freedom.