UP population far from exploding, but still soaring

By, Lucknow
Sep 23, 2019 10:13 PM IST

The decadal population growth rate in Uttar Pradesh is higher than the national average, but the state is not heading towards a population explosion, a perennial issue in the country.

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While the declining fertility rate is all set to slow down the population growth, the state’s population is still expected to soar to 250 million by 2031.

The term ‘population explosion’ has regained currency, especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned it in his Independence Day speech and said those having small families were doing an act of patriotism.

As the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh has seen a population explosion in the past especially from 1971 to 2001 when the decadal growth remained over 25% but is now witnessing the declining trend.

Following the national trend, Uttar Pradesh was seeing a population slowdown, said Abhinav Sharma, a policy researcher.

“Still, UP has the highest population and would continue to house around 15% of the total population of the country,” he said.

Even the economic survey 2018-2019 released earlier this year hints at the slowdown.

“Population growth in India has been slowing down in recent decades from an annual growth rate of 2.5 % during 1971-81 to an estimated 1.3 %,” read the survey.

Over the years, the total fertility rate in several states, including Uttar Pradesh, is decreasing. Although higher than the replacement rate (2.1), UP’s total fertility rate (TFR) is around 3. As per the economic survey, TFR in UP will even be less than the replacement level by 2031. “It shows the state has reached the next phase of demographic transition where population growth is set to slow down in next two decades,” said Aditya Kumar Singh, a public policy expert.

Poonam Muttreja, executive director of Population Foundation of India, said: “UP has the second-highest fertility rate in India and it has recorded the largest decrease in Total Fertility Rate.”


From 1901 to 2011, if we divide the period into two parts, the UP population increased by 30% from 1901-1951 but exploded with the growth rate of 216 % from 1951 to 2011.

From 1901 to 1971, the decadal growth rate of population has been lower as compared to the national level. In 1931, 1961 and till 1971, the population growth of the state was around or over 5%, less than the national mark.

It started soaring in the 1970s when the national-level population growth was on a declining trend, Uttar Pradesh looked another way. As per the 2011 census, Uttar Pradesh has a population of 19.98 crore (199.8 million) which increased by 20.23% over the 2001 population. However, the population growth in 2001 was 25.80 %.

Despite the high growth rate for decades, the share of UP in the country population is now almost steady. As per the census data, in 1901, the percentage share of the Uttar Pradesh population in the total population was 20.39% percent and followed the declining trend to 16.10% in 1971 and is hovering around the same figure since then.

Not all UP districts responsible for soaring population

Uttar Pradesh has a population growth rate higher than the national average (17.6%), but not all districts are responsible for the soaring population. This is quite evident from the census data.

After registering around 25% decadal growth for almost three decades, Uttar Pradesh population grew by 20.2% from 2001-2011. But population growth was lower than the state average in half of the state’s districts. Strangely, Shrawasti, where the total fertility rate is quite high, recorded the lowest population growth of 4.8% , the same as Kerala, during the period.

Comparison of UP’s census data with that of others revealed the population growth rates of 10 districts of UP was between those of Kerala (4.8 %) and Karnataka (15.67%) and 13 districts have decadal growth rate between the growth rate of Karnataka and the national average.

“More than 50% of districts have population decadal growth rate less than UP’s decadal growth rate, while in 10 districts population is soaring at the rate of Bihar (25.07%),” said Abhay Kumar Tiwari, associate professor at Banaras Hindu University’s statistics department.

He researched the UP’s population growth and found Shrawasti has the lowest decadal population growth in Uttar Pradesh. As per the census data, Bahraich recorded the highest growth at 46.48% followed by Ghaziabad 42.27 %, Gautam Buddha Nagar 37.11 %, Chitrakoot 29.43 % and Balrampur 27.72 %.

“Not all districts have high population growth. Some of them are even below than normal,” said Avdhesh Kumar Singh, a population policy activist working with different outfits working for population control.

“Uttar Pradesh has 57 districts with a total fertility rate of over 2.1, while 11 of them have a rate of 4 and above,” he said.

The districts with TFR 4 and above include Bahraich, Sitapur, Hardoi, Shahjahanpur, Banda, Gonda, Etah, and Balrampur.


    Saurabh Chauhan is a correspondent reporting from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, covering Social Welfare, Women and Child Development, Agriculture. Previously reported from Mohali (Punjab), Shimla (HP) and covered Political, Civil Admin, Finance beats.

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