Indian Census Reports 1921

Distribution and Movement of Population

Introductory Remarks

The statistical dealt wit in this report cover the whole of the territory known as the Indian Empire, lying roughly between longitudes 61o to 101E. and latitudes 18 o to 37 o N., and embracing (a) the territories directly controlled by the Government of India, generally known as British India, and (b) the Indian states, consisting of areas administered by Indian chiefs in political relations with the central Government or with one or other of the provincial Governments. Surrounding on the northern and eastern borders by the independent countries of Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, China, and Siam the frontiers of the Empire are, except in the case of part of the eastern borders of Assam and Burma, well defined. In the mountainous country on the eastern confines of these two provinces there lie sparsely inhabited areas, which have not yet been brought under regular administrative control, and in only parts of these could any enumeration of the population be undertaken or any estimate made. On the western and southern sides of India the coastline naturally affords a well-defined border.

Of the adjacent islands Ceylon, though a British colony, lies outside the Indian Empire; but the small clusters of the Aminidivi and Laccadive islands on the west and the larger groups of the Andaman’s and Nicobars in the Bay of Bengal form part of India, while the Aden Settlement, which is under the administrative control of the Bombay Government, forms politically, if not geographically, a part of the Indian Empire and was included in the scope of the Indian Census. Within the boundaries thus described, but outside the Indian Empire, lie also the French and Portuguese Settlements, consisting of the colonies of Pondicherry, Karikal, Chandergore, Mahe and Yanaan (French) and of Goa, Daman and Diu (Portuguese). A census of these territories was taken by their own Governments on the 18th March, 1921, in the French Settlements and in 1920 in the Portuguese Settlements, and the results of these censuses together with estimates of the area and population of some of the independent neighboring states which are politically most nearly connected with the Indian Empire are exhibited in the marginal statement.

State of SettlementArea in Square Miles.Population
Afghanistan Nepal Bhutan French Possessions Portuguese Possessions245,000 54,000 20,000 196 1,6386,380,500 5,600,000 250,000 269,579 —

  2. The main political divisions of the Indian Empire are defined in the map, which forms a frontispiece to this volume. Including the chief Commissioner of Delhi, Coorg, Ajmer – Merwara and the Andaman’s, the Indian Empire has fifteen British Provinces. The last rearrangement of the eastern Provinces of India came into force on the 1st April 1912, but statistics of the Provinces of Assam, Bengal and Bihar and Orissa were separately shown in the 1st October 1912. In the main tables the statistics of Delhi are separately shown, but in some of the less important tables they have been included contains a review of census of Delhi. The numerous Indian states may be   divided into the following groups  

  1.  Single states having separate political relationships with the Government of India.
  2. States growing into agencies in political relations with the Government of India and,
  3. States having political relations with local Governments.  

 Among the states which form separate political units is now included the Gwalior state, which was separated from the Central India agency with effect from 15th March, 1921. The Punjab state agency was constituted With effect from the 1st November 1921, and includes a number of the larger states which were formerly attached to the Punjab province. The statistics of these states are separately exhibited in the Punjab Report volumes but the agency has not been treated as a separate unit in this report. The third main group of states includes the important South Indian states of Cochin and Tranancore, which are politically attached to the Madras Presidency. The statistics of these states are separately shown in some of the more important tables. The territory of the Maharaja of Benares was declared an independent State on the 1st April, 1911, and the statistics are separately shown in the united Provinces volume. The combined statistics of the states attached to each province form independent units for the purposes of some of the more general tables of this report but  are otherwise included with the figures of the provinces to which they are severally attached. The general effect of this arrangement may e seen in Imperial Table and in Subsidiary Table III on page 58 of this volume which gives the unit adopted for the presentation of the statistics of this report. The main administrative unit in the British Provinces is the district which varies in size and population. The Thar and Parkar district of Sind has an area of nearly 14,000  square miles and two districts of the Central Provinces (Raipur and Chanda) are between nine and ten thousands square mi8les in size. All these districts are sparsely inhabited. On the other hand the Mymensingh district of Bengal, with an area of Just over 6,000 square miles, has a population of nearly five million persons, while the Gorakhpur district of the United Provinces and the Malabar district of Madras each  have over three million persons. The average district population in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa and Madras is over one and a half million while in the North-West Frontier Province and Burma it is less than half a million.

3.   For the discussion of statistics of density and movement of population the administrative divisions of the country, which have been formed on historical and political considerations, are not always a suitable basis of classification, and various schemes of natural divisions, based usually on meteorological and geological features, have been used in previous census reports for the presentation of the statistics. In the report of 1911 Sir Edwards Gait adopted a scheme of sixteen Natural Divisions based on the distribution of the rainfall, which forms an important influence in determining the varying density of the population. The more general and constant factors, which decide the topographical grouping of the population in India have now been fully discussed in the reports of 1901 and 1911, and it is unnecessary to go into the subject in great detail in the present report, while the movement of the population during the decade under consideration is largely the result of an influence which is not closely related to the principles on which the natural divisions have hitherto been base. I have therefore decided that it is unnecessary to present the statistics of India as a whole in any scheme of natural divisions, but I shall make use from time to time of such grouping of the figures as may appear most suitable for the elucidation of any particular point that may be discussed. In the case of the individual units of territory, however, where the discussion of the figures can be of a more detailed nature, the matter is somewhat different, and in most of the reports of the Provinces and States the use of natural divisions has been continued, the principles on which they have been determined being fully explained in the provincial reports. Where it is necessary in this report to carry the discussion beyond the figures of the provincial as a whole the provincial natural division will sometimes be used for presenting the statistics.  

  4.  Details of the of the area and population of India and the Provinces and States are given in Imperial Table I. The main statistics for the whole of India are given in the table below. Further details of the area and population of the Provinces and States will be found in tables at the end of this chapter. The diagram opposite shows graphically the statistics of population for the whole country and the chief political divisions of it.   

IndiaBritish ProvincesIndian StatesIndiaBritish ProvincesIndian States
Area in square Miles1,805,3321,094,300711,032Total Population
In towns
In Villages
Number of towns and Villages
(a) Towns
(b) Villages
In Towns
In villages
Number of Occupied Houses
(a) In towns
(b) In Villages
In Towns
In Villages

The India Empire has an area of 1,805,332 square miles, the area as calculated in the present census exceeding that of 1911 by 2,675 square miles. A statement giving the details of the changes of area will be found at the end of the chapter. About 3,000 square miles have been added owing to the enumeration by estimate of certain tracts in Burma, which had been excluded from previous censuses. On the other hand there is a small balance of loss on the figures of the revised survey of different provinces. A population of about 23,000 persons was enumerated in Assam for the first time in remote areas on the northeastern frontiers but unfortunately it has not been found possible to give any estimate of the area with which this population corresponds. Of the total area 1,094,300 square miles, or 61 percent. Lie in British territory, while the Indian states cover an area of 711,032 square miles, or 39 percent. The total populations 38,942,480, British territory containing 247,003,293 persons, or 77 percent., and the Indian States 71,939,187 persons, or 23 percent., of the whole population. It is usual to illustrate these figures by comparison with the countries of Europe and in respect of area and population the Indian Empire has been frequently compared to Europe without Russia. The war has however, considerably altered the national and political distribution of countries and the new political map of Europe is perhaps hardly yet sufficiently familiar to form a graphic contrast. Turning further west we find that India with an area about half that of the United States has a population almost three times as large.

 Still more interest is afforded by a comparison in respect of size and population between the Indian Empire and some of the other great Empires of the world’s history. Bryce, writing in 1914, observes in contrasting the Roman and Indian empires”: -“The area of the territories included in the Roman Empire at its greatest extent (When Dacia and the southern part of what was then Caledonia and is now Scotland belonged to it) may have been nearly 2,500,000 square miles. The population of that area is now, upon a very rough estimate, about 210 millions. What it was in ancient times we have no data even for guessing, but it must evidently have been much smaller, possibly not 100 millions, for although large regions, such as parts of Asia Minor and Tunisia, now almost deserted, were then filled by a dense industrial population the increase in the inhabitants of France and England, for instance, has far more than compensated this decline. The Spanish Empire in America as it stood in the sixteen and seventeenth centuries was still vaster in area, But the population of Spanish America was extremely small in comparison with that of the Roman Empire or that of India, and its organization much looser and less elaborate.   The total area of the Russian Empire before the war exceeded 8 million square miles and the population was about 130 million people. The Chines Empire has an area estimated at 4,171,000 square miles and a population of about four hundred millions. The provinces and states of India, as will be seen from the diagram, vary in size and population over a wide range. The largest in extent, Burma, is in area rather smaller than  Germany and rather larger than France and has a population equel to that of the latter country. The united Provinces are about the main  size as Italy has a rather larger population. Bombay resembles Spain in area and has a population to that of Spain and Portugal together, while Assam, the smallest of the major provinces, has an area rather larger than that of England and Wales and a population, which compares with that of Switzerland. Of the larger states Hyderabad and Kashmir have each an area nearly as large as that of Great Britain without Ireland though their combined population is not much mere than one third of that of Great Britain alone.

  1. Over the whole of India the population per square mile average 177, the mean density i8n the British Provinces being 226and in the states 100. The manner in which the population is distributed over the 
Belgium 654 
England and Wales 648 
France 184 
Germany 332 
The Netherlands 544 
Austria 199 
Spain 107 
Japan 215 
United States 32 
New Zealand 118 

whole Empire is graphically shown in the map opposite. The average densities of the individual provinces and states are shown in the diagram opposite. These averages are of general rather than scientific interest and cover an infinite variety of different conditions. Similar figures of some of the other countries of the world are given in the margin for comparison. If we take the districts (and small states) as a unit and exclude cities, the mean density ranges between a minimum of 1 and maximum of 1,882 per square mile.

On the basis of provincial natural divisions we obtain a classification of density shown the following tables: –

S.No Density by natural Divisions in groups Number of Natural Divisions in each group Area (in square miles) Percentage of each group on total area Population Percentage of each group on total population 
Below 44 11 462,195 26.5 8,828,790 2  .8 
5159-17718,533 0.51,407,0860.5
 India 177       
13531 & over11129,2747.479,114,15625.5

 Note: -(From 1 to 5 is below mean and from 6 to 13 is above mean) 

Thus about one third of the population occupies rather more than two thirds of the  area at a density below the mean of the country; while one sixth of the area is occupied by nearly half the population at a density of over 350. The center of area is on the boundary line of the Bhilsa district of the Gwalior State at Lat. 23o 36’ N. and long. 80 o 4′ E.

The unequal distribution of the population of India is due to a variety of causes which have been fully analyzed in previous census reports and need not again be discussed in detail. In order to increase and multiply man climate not fatally unhealthy and sufficient security of life and property to make it possible for him to settle and abode. All these factors interact on one another and the absence of any one of hem may counteract he influence of the other. In India where the economic conditions are closely connected with the cultivation of soil, the physical configuration of the area must form a primary factor, as continuous cultivation is impossible in a rocky or mountainous country. We shall expect to find the larger aggregation of population in the level tracts of the country and it is in the northern portion of India, the valleys of the Indus, Ganges and Rajputana, that such continuous tracts of level country chiefly exit. Within such tracts the principle factor must usually be the rainfall which supplies the water necessary to fertilize the soil, and subject to definite modifications caused by other influences, there is a distinct general correlation between the density of the population and the quantity of the rainfall. Thus the sharp contrast between the extremes of density in Eastern Bengal on the one hand and the sparsely inhabited areas in the plains of the Indus valley on the other are largely due to the difference between unfailing abundance and permanent deficiency of rain. In Eastern Bengal, where the density of population rises as high as over 1,000 persons, per square mile in certain tracts, every factor favorable to the growth of an agricultural population reinforces the dominant influence of an abundant and stable supply of water fro the heavens.

The level tract of country with its fertile alluvial soil is drained by a system of large rivers. These carry away the surplus water and prevent the water logging and consequently unhealthy conditions, which retard the growth of the population in Western Bengal, the rainfall is equally good but the physical configuration of the country is not so favorable. On the other hand the complete absence of rain in large portions of the Indus valley and the plains of northern Rajputana, render these tracts cultivable and consequently uninhabitable, except where water is supplied artificial irrigation.  Between these extremes the density figures range in very variety of gradation. Between these extremes the density figures range in every variety of graduation. In the broad and fertile valleys of the Ganges and Jumna, as well as in the plains of Gujarat, the country is level and continuous cultivation is possible, but here, as well as over the peninsula generally, the rainfall, while ordinarily sufficient for cultivation, lacks stability in respect both of its periodic, seasonal and local incidence. A complete failure of the monsoon, such as that of 1900 over the central tracts of India, will produce intense and widespread famine, which suspends the whole economic machinery, while badly, distributed rainfall will cause local scarcity which if continued year after year, as in parts of the Deccan and Karnataka, will seriously retard the prosperity of the tract. In the central tracts south of he Ganges Valley the physical aspects of the country change and the lower ranges of density, which prevail in this portion of the continent, are primarily due to the less favorable configuration of the surface. The undulation plateaus of Central India and the central portions of the peninsula proper are broken by ranges of mountains, sometimes bare and stony and  sometimes forest clad and are intersected by rivers and streams which flow for the most part through  deep cut valleys. There is little scope for large continuous stretches of cultivation, communications are often difficult, while occasional failure of the rainfall indirectly checks the growth of the population even where there is ordinarily room  or it to expend. Nearer the coast the conditions are more favourable. In the  Gujrat plains the density rises to nearly 300, the Kaira district having a density 45 person per square mile. In the coastal tracts of the south, where the physical features are specially favorable and the monsoon stable, the standard of aggregation is more akin to that of the Ganges Valley. The Godavari district of he East Coast has a population of 58 per square mile and the Malabar district of the West Coast a density of 585, while in the small state of Cochin, where physical and economic conditions are specially favorable, the density is as high as 662 per square mile.

Each white diamond represents one percent of the total Area of India.
Each black diamond represents one percent of the total population of India.

But though the general distribution of the population is mainly dependent on physical conditions, there are other factors which have added their influence to these. The analysis of the factors of density made in the report of 1911 shows how the history of a tract has served to encourage  the expansion of the population, as in the Ganges Valley which was the principal habitat of the chief civilizing dynasties of India, or retard it, as in the case of Burma and Assam, where the absence of law and order till recent times interfered with the settled life of the people, or of the Central Provinces, where  the country has comparatively lately been opened out by railway and road and colonization is more recent than in the northern tracts. Mention has already been made of the influence of climate in Bengal and the central portion of the continent. Malaria, epidemic and endemic, is the chief agent of mortality in India and its normal intensity seems to depend more on climate than on economic conditions. Thus besides the western districts of Bengal malaria is specially prevalent in the submontane tracts of northern India and in the hilly and forest portions of the central and southern areas. The influence of irrigation in supplying deficiencies of the rainfall is seen in the increasing aggregation of population in the canal colonies of the Punjab, the irrigated tracts o the united Provinces and the east of Madras, while industrial factors are becoming more and more important as the population moves out of the congested rural tracts to supply the labour required for industrial enterprise, for the tea in Assam, the docks and jute mills of Calcutta, the minerals of Bengal and Chota Nagpur, the cotton of Bombay and the coffee and rubber of southern India.

 6.   According to the census returns of  1921 the population of India has increased by 1.2 percent during the decade. The figures of previous censuses with the variations percent are given in the margin. The average

Census ofPopulationVariation percent since previous census

increases since the census of 1872 falls at a rate of 5.5 percent., but the real gain is considerably less than this figure owing to two factors, (A) the additions of area and population included at each census and  (B) the progressive increases in the accuracy of the enumeration from census to census. The effect of these factors on the past figures has been discussed in previous census reports and need not be further dealt with here. It is clear that their influence must steadily decline as organized administration extends and the system  and practice of enumeration improve.

So far as the present census is concerned the additional area and  population included amounts to 2,675 square miles and 86,533 persons respectively, while for the present purpose it  may be taken

PeriodIncrease due toReal increases of populationTotalRate percent of real increases
Inclusion of new areasImprovement of population
1872 – 188133.
1881 – 18915.73.524.333.59.6
1891 – 19012.
1901 – 19111.8…..18.720.56.4
1911 – 1921.1……

 that the enumeration of 1921was, as regards numbers, as accurate than that of 1911. The general result after allowing for the factors of extension and accuracy is given in the marginal statement. The real increase in the population during the last 49 years is thus estimated at about – four millions 20.1 percent.  The variation in the    whole of India and the main provinces and states are exhibited in the diagram below and the diagram opposite ; also in the map which forms a frontispiece to  this volume.

It will be noticed that the increase in the decade was slightly greater in the British districts than in the increase in the decade  was slightly greater  in the British districts than in the states and that i the large in r provinces the variation range from an increase of 5.7 % in the Punjab to a decrees of 3.1%  in the United province. The steady rate of expansion in the provinces of Assam, the Central Provinces  and Burma during the last 50 years was the subject of the following remark in the report of last census

  “Lower Burma has grown  by 135% since 1872 and the whole Provinces , including Upper Burma which was annexed 1886 by 37% since 1891. In Assam including Manipur the increase since 1872 amounts to 70 and in the centranel provinces and Berar to 47 %”

Assam and Burma again show comparatively high rates of increase. Immigration is an important factor in the rise in Assam but neither or these two provinces were exposed to and Berar, Bihar and orissa and Bomabay  and substantially reduced the population in the United Provinces, the Rajputana and central India Agency and Hyderabad State. The epidemic was severe in the North West Frontier areas and in parts of the Kashmir state. The stimulus given to agricultural prosperity in the Punjab by the large expansion of canal irrigation has done much to neutralize the effects of the high death rate in 1918, as is shown by the rapid recovery of the birth rate after that year. In the Bengal and Madras unhealthy conditions were more localised than in the central and western tracts and development of population was only partially retarded, the expansion of population in the costal districts of south India  being considerable and amounting to nearly 17% in the Travancore State.

  7.   An obvious factor influencing the variation  of population in any area is the physical movement of people in and out of that area. So far as the whole of India is concerned, this factor is impossible to estimate exactly and in any case is not of real importance. The statistics of birth place in Imperial Table XI give complete figures of those who were born outside and enumerated within India, but the numbers of those natives of India who, at the time of census, were residing in Persis,  Afghanistan, Nepal, China and other Asiatic Countries in which no census is taken are not known. It was shown, however, in paragraph 87 of the report of 1911 that on such figures and estimates as are available the excess of emigration over immigration in India might be placed roughly at about 581,000 person in 1911. The number of immigrants into India from outside has decreased from 650 thousands in 1911 to 604 thousands at the excess during the decade in the number of soldiers and students who have left  for foreign countries is probably more than balanced by a reduction in the emigration of labour, owing  to restrictions thereon, while there is no reason to suppose that emigration to other Asiatic countries has increased. Even if the additional loss to India during the decade on the balance of emigration amounts to as much as 150,000 persons, or about double the loss estimated for the previous decade, he figure is of little importance compared with the gain or loss due to natural causes, depending on the health and well being of the people and shown in the birth and death rate. Before studying these causes, it will be well to review briefly the general circumstances of the decade, which were likely to affect the growth of the population.  

    8.  While many of the factors and conditions set out in the next paragraph are directly due to the war, the war itself had little direct effect on the population of India. Such effect could operate in three ways (1) By death casualties, (2) By increasing the number of persons outside India at the census, and (3) By decreasing the birth rate. The actual number of death casualties among the officers and ranks of Indian Army units and labour units at any one time between 1914 and 1919 was, approximately, Indian troops 250,000, labour corps 230,000 total 480,000; the number about the time of the census being troops 105,000 labour corps 20,800, total 125,800. A fair proportion of combatants was draw from the fighting races of the Punjab and some statistics for that Provinces are given by Mr. Middleton in his report. He writes as follows: –  

“It comes as a shock to the imagination to compare the mortality directly caused by the war with that due to natural causes; though war casualties were amongst the pick of the population they were numerically insignificant when contrasted with the death-roll caused by the slightest of epidemics; indeed it is undoubtedly true, as observed by Mr. Leigh, that the war saved more lives in the Punjab owing to the collocation of men in cantonments where the ravages of influenza in 1918 were met by efficient medical precautions and remedies than it wasted on the field of battle. It is possible that the absence of so large a proportion of the able bodied from their home indirectly affected the population by lowering the birth rate, but so many of these men were able to visit their homes on leave that the effect was not great enough to be discoverable from statistics. With regard to its effect upon the numbers of the population the war is an almost negligible factor in a decade which in itself will render unique in history as long as civilization lasts.”  

Other provinces contributed their quota to the labour corps which were sent across the seas and local figures are affected, especially in the North-West Frontier Province, by the distribution and movement of troops; but so far as the larger totals are concerned the war is not a direct factor of any importance in the census in any province.  

   9.)   In considering the factors which determined the movement of the population the decade may conveniently be divided into two periods, (A) a fairly normal period from 1911 to 1917 and (B) the disastrous epidemic year 1918, accompanied by scarcity and followed by a second crop failure in 1920. As will be seen the war hardly began to affect the ordinary life of the people till about the third year after its outbreak. Agricultural conditions during the earlier period were on the whole favourable. In 1911-12 and 1912-13 there was a serious shortage of rain in parts of the Bombay Presidency resulting in scarcity conditions over certain areas of the East Deccan, but on the whole insufficient rain fall was to restricted localities. The year 1913-14 was abnormally dry. The united Provinces and Central Provinces suffered from an early cessation of the monsoon rain of 1913 which caused a fall in the outturn of wheat, and there was some distress in parts of the former province. In 1914-15 the rainfall, abundant and well distributed in the center and north and east of the country, was unfavourable in the eastern positions of Bengal and in Madras and Burma and the rice crop was somewhat below normal. Rainfall in 1915-16 varied considerably over the country, the heavy late rain causing floods in the Eastern Provinces and parts of he United Provinces, but on the whole the harvest of the year was fair and the rice crop was above he normal. The monsoon of the two following years was heavy and well distributed and both below the average in 1913-14 and 1915-16, but in the case of the these crops the higher prices obtainable in a poor year tend to recoup the grower in value for what he loses in quantity. Meanwhile the economic conditions in India were gradually undergoing a change. The outbreak of war in 1914 caused an immediate decline in the bulk of India’s foreign trade by the contraction of shipping. The influence on prices of foodstuffs from any considerable movement. In 1917 however the conditions of India began to respond to the world disturbance of the war. Men for the fighting and labour units and food, munitions and war material of all kinds were demanded. The strain on the railway organization dislocated the local markets and the distribution system in the country began to give trouble, while the rising prices of imported necessities such as salt, oil and cloth hit the poorer classes severely. The harvests of 1917 were good but the year was wet and unhealthy and a virulent outbreak of plague in the north and west of India caused heavy mortality. Wages had not yet begun to move with the upward movement of prices and there was a general feeling of restlessness among the labouring classes, which rapidly increased under the influence of political propaganda. Then followed the disastrous seasons of 1918-1919. The monsoon of 1918 was exceptionally feeble and gave practically no rain after the beginning of September. In the Punjab and the central and western portions of the continent the crops failed over considerable areas and scarcity, aggravated by the high level of prices, was declared in parts of Punjab, United Provinces, Central Provinces, Bombay and Bihar and Orissa, while agricultural conditions were equally bad in parts of the Hyderabad and Mysore States. The outturn of rice fell from nearly 40,000 to 24,000 tons while the wheat harvest in the spring of 1919 was equally poor. The crop failure was as bad as, if not worse than, that of 1900 and prices of foodstuffs, cloth and other necessities of life, already high, rose to heights never previously reached. Famine relief organization in now so highly perfected in India that scarcity is not necessarily accompanied by high mortality. But meanwhile the influenza epidemic, starting in the latter part of 1918, visited almost every portion of the country and wiped out in a few months practically the whole natural increase in the population for the previous seven years. Emergency measures were taken. Transport, the export of foodstuffs and the distribution of the necessities of life were all placed under Government control, and it was only the wonderful resisting power of the people, acquired from years of steady economic improvement, that enabled the country to tide without absolute disaster over a year of unprecedented difficulty and strain. These conditions lasted through the first half of 1919, but an abundant though not very well distributed monsoon in that year brought some welcome relief, though prices remained high and it was necessary to stop all export of food grains and to reinforce the stocks of the country by importing wheat from Australia. The monsoon of 1920 was poor; the autumn rains failed and the winter rains were in defect. Famine was declared in one district in Bombay and scarcity in another districts of those Provinces and in seven districts of the Central Provinces. Famines conditions in Hyderabad were pronounced and distress prevailed were in certain districts of Madras. By the end of 1920 nearly 100,000 persons were on relief and generous remissions of revenue had to be given. It was not till the end of 1920 and the beginning of 1921 that prices gradually began to come down. 

10.) Apart from the more normal causes of mortality the distinctive features of the decade of 1901 to 1911 had been the progress through India of the plague epidemic and the mortality, which it caused. The recorded number of deaths from plague during that period was about 6½ millions. In the recent decade the deaths recorded are less than half that number. There were however serious outbreaks of plague in Bombay, the Punjab, the United Provinces and the Central Provinces in the first two years of the decade; the mortality was again high in 1915 and higher still in 1917 and 1918, when the disease was severe in practically every part of northern and central India. Cholera is normally most prevalent in the Eastern Provinces. It was especially virulent in Assam and in parts of Bihar and Orissa and Bengal, while in several provinces outbreaks of the disease either accompanied or immediately followed the influenza epidemic. Cholera in its most severe form has usually been associated with the deterioration in physique, which accompanied famine conditions before famine organization had been perfected. Virulent as the epidemic can still be when its hold is established it is now usually of a temporary and local nature, and the total death rate in British India from the disease during the decade did not amount to more than 1.5 percent. By far the largest numbers of deaths in India are entered under the category of “fever” and allowing for inaccuracy of diagnosis it has usually been assumed that about two thirds of the deaths so recorded may be ascribed to malaria.  Recent investigations made in special areas, however, suggest that this proportion has been considerably fourth of the number of reported fever cases, the he remainder being cases of dysentery, pneumonia, phthisis and other diseases. * Malaria is endemic in large areas of the continent, both in the forest clad country which fringes the mountain ranges and in tracts of Bengal, Assam, and Burma, where the configuration of the country prevents the drainage of the flood water after the monsoon. In such areas, besides raising the average level of the death rate, it permanently lowers the vitality of the people and reacts both on the birth rate and on their general economic condition. In parts of western Bengal the population has been described as sodden with malaria. Epidemic malaria was specially fever in the Punjab and United Provinces in the earlier years of the decade and again in 1917 when owing to the especially heavy monsoon, mortality from this disease was high in almost every province. In the last few years the prevalence of an affection, which is the cause of considerable mortality called Relapsing Fever, has received considerable attention by the Health Department. This dieses has been diagnosed as common in most parts of the country, specially in the northern provinces and in the Central Provinces and Berar and Bombay, but the extent of the mortality which can be ascribed to

it cannot at present be estimated. Nor can figures be given of phthisis, which is undoubtedly responsible for considerable mortality; especially in the towns of western India, the deaths from this disease in Ahmedabad amount in 1918 to 5 per mile of the population. All other factors in the health of the people have, however, been over shadowed by the influenza epidemic of 1918 1919 which has dominated the population figures at the present census. 

11.) The influenza epidemic of 1918 invaded the continent of India in two distinct waves. The first infection apparently radiated from Bombay and progressed eastward from their, but its origin and foci are uncertain. It may have been introduced from shipping in Bombay district, Delhi, and Meerut in the spring; but the existence of the dieses in epidemic form cannot be established without doubt before June. The diseases became general in India in both the military and civil population during August and infection spread rapidly from place to place by rail, road and water. The first epidemic was most prevalent in urban areas, but it was not of an especially virulent type and, probably for that reason, it is said to have affected young children and old people most severely. The morality curve went to a peak in July and then dropped and there is evidence of a distinct interval between the first and second waves but not of any real break of continuity, as sporadic cases were reported throughout the intervening period. It is impossible to say where the more virulent virus of the second invasion came from. There are certain facts, which suggest that the disease began in the Poona district in September. It spread from province o province, lasting in a virulent form generally from eight to ten weeks, when mortality, usually due to respiratory disease, reached its highest point. The rural areas were most severely infected, the reason probably being that while villages have little advantage over towns in the matter of overcrowding, sanitation and ventilation the urban areas have the benefit of qualified medical aid and organized effort. Mortality was especially high among adults (20-40), particularly among adult females, the diseases being generally fatal to women in pregnancy. It is suggested that the high mortality was specially high among women may have been due to the fact that, in addition to the ordinary tasks of the house, on them fell the duty of nursing the others even when themselves ill. The figures show that the excess mortality between the ages 20 to 40 amounted in some cases to nearly four times the mean. It is no exaggeration to say that at the worst period whole villages were put out of action by the epidemic. To add to the distress the disease came at a period of widespread failure and reached its climax in November when the cold weather had set in; and, as the price of cloth happened at the time to be at its highest, many were unable to provide themselves with the warm clothing that was essential in the case of an illness that so readily attacked the lungs. The disease lasted in most provinces well into 1919 and gave a high mortality in that year in Bengal and the united Provinces even after it had subsided there were in the year, while local outbreaks continued over the country during the next two years. 

            The comparative severity of the epidemic in the different parts of India is shown in the map on the opposite page. * It is not possible to explain the peculiar variations in the local prevalence of the diseases, which seems to have been entirely capricious in its incidence. The coastline escaped with a low mortality while in the hilly country the disease was usually special fatal, though this was apparently not always the case in the Punjab. The Eastern Provinces escaped lightly and Calcutta was not attacked as severely as other cities. It has been suggested that the mortality was determined by the comparative liability of the people to respiratory complications or, in other words, their susceptibility to pneumonia, and it looks as if the epidemic was more virulent in a cold dry climate than where there was comparative warmth or humidity.  

ProvincesEstimated number of deathsDeath Rate per mile of population of column 2.
Ajmer – Merwara29,83559.5
Bihar & Orissa709,97620.5
C.P. & Berar924,94966.4
N.W.F. Province89,03543.6
United Province2,034,25743.4

 There is no direct means of ascertaining the mortality from the epidemic. Influenza was unknown to the registration staff as a specific form of illness and the deaths were entered under the heads fever or respiratory disease. Various estimates have been made based on the excess mortality over some suitable mean. The average of these calculations gives a total number of deaths in the areas under registration of about 7,100,000 in 1918, as shown in the migration table ; to which must be added, as the results of similar calculation, another 1-1/3 million deaths in 1919, giving a total recorded mortality of nearly 8.5 millions in the two years. Even this, however, must be a substantial underestimate since, owing to the complete breakdown of the reporting staff, the registration of vital statistics was in many cases suspended during the progress of the epidemic in 1918 and when the time came to reconstruct the figures the number of omissions, especially in the case of women, must have formed a high proportion. In some cases the Census Superintendents give estimates of deaths considerably higher than those given in the margin, which are taken from the Sanitary Commissioner’s report and, as we shall see in paragraph 14 below, there is a difference of nearly 4 millions between the census figures and the deduced population, a considerable proportion of which must be due to omissions of influenza deaths. In any case the figure given above applies only to the areas under registration, which contain little more than three quarters of the population of India.

The epidemic was especially virulent in the Rajputana and Central India Agencies and in the States of the Punjab, Central Provinces and Bihar and Orissa, while the attack was severe in Kashmir and Mysore and acute in Hyderabad and parts of Baroda. We have no statistics for these areas, at any rate none that are trustworthy, but a rough estimate would put the direct mortality in them, from the disease in 1918 and 1919, at least in the same proportion as in British territory. We thus arrive at a total mortality of between 12 and 13 millions for India. It is interesting to note that even this conservative estimate of a mortality, the large part of which occurred in the space of three or four months, exceeds by nearly two millions the total estimated deaths from plague extending over 20 years  (1898-1918), and is a good deal more than double the death rate directly attributable to the famines, of the period 1897-1901. The number of deaths, however, is not, of course, the measure of the loss of life from the epidemic. The case mortality has been put roughly at about 10 percent and on this basis the total number of persons affected by the disease was about 125 millions or two fifths of the total population of India. The effect on the general health of the people is shown by the reaction on the birth rate, which dropped below the death rate in 1918 and 1919 and only gave a slight excess in India in 1920. 

12. The cumulative effect of the various health factors on the vitality of the population is shown in the variations of the birth and death rates, but before making a use of the recorded vital statistics it will be well to form some estimates of the accuracy and value of the records. The registration of vital statistics is established throughout British India except in the more remote and backward tracts. The system of collection differs in details in different Provinces. It is usually based on information of births and deaths recorded in the village (often by the headman of the village), and passed on periodically to some local authority, usually the police by whom registers are maintained. Extracts from these registers are sent to the local officer who is responsible for the records of public health, by which they are complied for the districts and so eventually for the Province.

The information includes particulars of the births, including stillbirths, and death by sex and religion and the classification of the deaths under certain categories of age and of disease. The records both in the villages and in the local offices are periodically checked by touring officers of various departments. In municipal towns the registration of vital occurrences by the householder is usually compulsory by law, and the registers are maintained by the municipal authority. Owing chiefly to carelessness in administration the standard of accuracy is probably not as high in the towns as in the rural areas. 

Attempts have from time to time been made to gauge the extent of errors by placing certain tracts under a special staff responsible for watching the reporting, but such attempts are themselves full of difficulties and their conclusions have not been accepted as of any final statistical value. The results of some attempts of this  

 Acland.ReportedDifference ErrorAclandReportedDifference error
  Births  Deaths 
United Province46.541.

 kind are described in Appendix II to Chapter V of the Bengal report. The percentage  of omissions found varies considerably in different regions and the samples can hardly be considered altogether representative because, on the one hand, the examination of the vital statistics was usually performed by a staff engaged on fever investigation in tracts which were specially unhealthy, and on the other hand, the presence of the enquiring staff probably stimulated the reporting agency to greater accuracy. Statistical analyses, based on a comparison between the recorded birth and death rates and the population and age distribution according to the census, also afford a valuable means of check. Comparing the estimated birth and death rates given by Mr. Acland in his actuarial report on the 1911 census figures with the reported rates of the decade ending with that year, we find that the apparent omissions in the reported figures vary between 7 and 8  per mille  for births and are slightly less in the case of deaths. Tests made by Mr. Thompson (Bengal) on the basis (1) of a comparison between the population returns and the  population deduced from the vital statistics of the decade with allowance for migrations, (2) the mean population,(3) the statistics of infant, 


Area of India and the Provinces and States

Provinces, State and Agency.Area in square Miles inDifference Increase + Descries19211911
Ajmer Mewara2,7112,711
Anandman and Nicobar3,1433,143
Baluchistan (districts and administered territory)54,22854,228
Bengal76,84378,699– 1,856
Bihar and Orissa83,16183,181– 20
Central provinces and Berar99,87699,823+53
Madras142,260142,330– 70
North west frontier Provinces (districts and administered territory)13,41913,418+1
Punjab and Delhi100,43999,779+660
……… Provinces106,295107,267-972
STATES AND AGENCIES711,032709,583+1,449
Assam State (Manipur)8,4568,456
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, States80,41080,410
Baroda State8,1278,182– 55
Bengal States5,4345,393+41
Bihar and Orissa states28,64828,648
Bombay states63,45363,864– 411
Central India (agency) and Gwalior State77,88877,367+521
Central provinces states31,17631,174+2
Hyderabad State82,69882,698
Kashmir State84,25884,432– 174
Madras States10,69610,549+147
Mysore State29,47529,475
North West frontier (agencies and Tribal Areas)25,50025,500
Punjab States37,05936,551+508
Rajputana (Agency)128,987128,987
Sikkim State2,8182,818
United Provinces States5,9495,079+80

NOTE: – The difference in areas is due to the use of revised survey figures and to corrections for fluvial action; in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, the Punjab and the United Provinces it is also due to inter – provincial transfers.  

Population distributed by Provinces and with variation percent. In the population and mean density per square mile.  

S.NoProvince, State or AgencyArea in square milePopulationsPercentage of variationsNet Variation PercentageMean Density Per Square Mile
   19211911(Increase + Decrease -)   
   PersonsMalesFemalesBoth Sexes1911-211901-111872-1921192119111901
1Ajmer Merware2,711495,271269,566225,705501,395-1.2+5.1+25.018318516
2Andaman and Nicobar3,14327,08620,7936,29326,459+2.4+7.3..988
6Bihar & Orissa111,80937,961,85818,710,05219,251,80638,434,753-1.2+5.1+34.6340344327
9C.P & Berar131,05215,970,6607,980,7977,998,86316,033,310-0.3+17.9+46.9122122121
15United Province112,24446,510,66824,368,97522,141,69347,997,364-3.1-1.0+9.1414427432
16States & Agencies423,35547,992,04724,752,43123,239,61648,694,210-1.4+11.3+381.5113115 
17Baroda State8,1272,126,5221,100,5641,025,9582,032,798+4.6+4.1+6.5262248 
18Central India (Agency)51,5315,997,0233,068,9622,928,0618,129,019-2.2+12.8..116121 
19Cochin States1,470979,080482,959496,121918,110+6.6+13.1+62.9662675 
20Gwalior State26,3573,186,0751,691,7001,494,3753,227,961-1.3+5.3..121123 
21Hyderabad State82,69812,471,7706,345,9716,126,69913,374,676-6.8+20.0..151162 
22Kashmir State84,2583,320,5181,757,1221,563,3963,158,126+5.1+8.7..3937 
23Mysore State29,4755,978,8923,047,1172,931,7755,806,193+3.0+4.8+18.3203197 
24Rajputana (agency)128,9879,844,3845,184,8914,659,49310,530,432-6.5+6.9..7682 
25Sikkim State2,81881,72141,49240,22987,920-7.1+49.0..2931 
26Travancore State7,6254,006,0622,032,5531,973,5093,428,975+16.8+16.2+73.3525452 

Note: The figures for the Provinces are inclusive of the States attached to them, except in the case of Madras, where they exclude Cochin and Travandroom  


Variation in natural population 1911-1921

Provinces, states or agencyPopulation in 1921Population in 1911Variation per cent (1911-19 21) in natural Population Increase (+) Decrease (-) Actual populationImmigrantsEmigrantsNatural populationActual PopulationImmigrantsEmigrantsNatural population
Ajmer Merware495,271109,89042,420427,801501,35996,57884,110488,927-12.5
Andaman and Nicobars27,08615,12031612,28226,49514,40297013,027-5.7
Bihar & Orissa37,961,858422,2441,955,04839,494,66238,435,293449,7121,916,80639,902,387-1.0
C.P & Berar15,979,660609,504407,29415,777,45016,033,310749,985315,23315,598,558+1.1
United Province46,510,668480,4141,402,54147,432,79548,014,080660,0851,429,31048,783,305 
Baroda State2,126,522232,494221,6022,115,6302,032,798222,957235,5282,045,369 
Central India (Agency)5,997,023548,094486,6435,935,5729,356,980474,255536,1339,418,858-3.1
Cochin States979,08039,75928,338967,659918,11047,26623,268894,112+8.2
Gwalior State3,186,075290,340289,0293,184,7649,356,980474,255536,1339,418,858-3.1
Hyderabad State12,471,770202,781363,5112,632,74012,374,676260,713306,38813,420,351-5.8
Kashmir State3,320,51863,42084,2913,341,3893,158,12676,77381,9683,163,321+5.6
Mysore State5,978,892314,531102,1045,766,4655,806,193312,908139,6075,632,892+2.3
Rajputana (agency)9,844,384243,002868,11710,469,49910,530,432303,553855,94711,082,826-5.5
Sikkim State81,72122,9784,13362,87687,92029,8353,44561,530+2.5
Travancore State61,1653,428,9753,962,7213,428,97561,16533,14333,1433,400,953+10.5


  1. The figures for the provinces are inclusive of the states attached to them except in the case of Madras, where they exclude Cochin and Travancore.
  2.  The actual and Natural population shown in this table is less by 56,500 persons owing to the exclusive of Aden where table XI was not completed.
  3. Column 2 and 6 – Persons not enumerated by birthplace or whose birthplace was not returned have been included in these columns.
  4. Columns 4 and 8 – The figures against India in columns 4 and 8 represent emigrants to foreign countries, details of which for 1921 will be found in Subsidiary table V of Chapter III.  


 Reported birth rate per mile during the decade 1911-1920 in the main Provinces.

ProvinceNumber of Births (Both Sexes) per mile inAverage birth rate per mile during the decade1911191219131914191519161917191819191920PersonsMaleFemale
Bihar & Orissa42.942.542.142.340.436.640.437.530.432.238.819.918.9
Central Provinces and Berar49.548.249.331.448.043.948.143.234.339.245.513.322.2
North West frontier Province35.
United Province43.845.447.744.948.543.140339.932.435.642.222.020.2


Reported death rate per mile during the decade 1911-1920 in the main Provinces  

ProvinceNumber of Deaths (Both Sexes) per mile inAverage death rate per mile during the decade1911191219131914191519161917191819191920PersonsMaleFemale
Bihar & Orissa35.
Central Provinces and Berar34.742.330.336.735.940.035.1102.643.
North West frontier Province23.323.424.725.823.630.129.970.328.623.430.330.330.3
United Province45.029.934.833.530.029.537.982.441.737.
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