Introduction : Background

Uttar Pradesh (UP) is the most populous state in India, with an estimated population of about 170 million as of March 2000 and a land area of 294,411 sq. km. One-sixth of the world's population lives in India and one-sixth of India's population lives in UP. Only three other countries of the world, China, the United States and Indonesia have populations larger than that of UP. The population density of the state at 578 persons per sq. km. is the fourth highest among major states in the country. The state, which spans most of the Indo-Gangetic plain of the country, has been the seat of ancient Hindu culture, religion and learning and has always played a prominent role in Indian political and cultural movements.

The present boundaries of the state came into existence with the reorganization of the states on a linguistic basis in 1956. For administrative purposes, the state has been divided into 83 districts, 294 tehsils, and 907 community blocks. There are 112,803 inhabited villages, 710 statutory towns, and 43 census towns. Nearly 19 percent of inhabited villages in India are in UP. As per the 1991 census, about 40 percent of the villages in UP had a population of less than 500 and another 26 percent of the villages had population in the range of 500-999. While the average population per village in UP is only 989, it is 1,829 in Andhra Pradesh and 2,325 in Tamil Nadu. Having a large number of small villages scattered all over the state is a major obstacle to the development of infrastructure facilities and delivery of all types of services related to development sectors.

The major economic activity in the state is agriculture, and in 1991, 73 percent of the population in the state was engaged in agriculture and 46 percent of the state income was accounted for by agriculture. UP has retained its pre-eminent position in the country as a food-surplus state. The production of foodgrains has increased from 14.5 million metric tons in 1960-61 to 42.5 million tons in 1995-96 showing an average annual growth rate of 3.1 percent, which is much higher than the population growth rate. UP has witnessed rapid industrialization in the recent past, particularly after the launch of policies of economic liberalization in the country. As of March 1996, there were 1,661 medium and large industrial undertakings and 296,338 small industrial units employing 1.83 million persons. The per capita state domestic product was estimated at Rs 7,263 in 1997-98, and there has been some decline in poverty in the state. Yet nearly 40 percent of the total population lives below the poverty line.

The literacy rate in UP increased from 28 percent in 1981 to 42 percent in 1991. The differential between female and male literacy is very high. Male literacy in 1991 was 56 percent and female literacy, 25 percent. As per the latest survey estimates, the male literacy in 1999 was 73 percent and female literacy, 43 percent (NFHS II). The increase in overall literacy rate is due to persistent efforts made by the state government to enroll and retain children in schools and to effectively implement the adult education programmes. The adult literacy rate (percent literate among those aged 15 and above) in the state has increased from 38 percent in 1991 to 49 percent in 1998, an increase of 11 percentage points in the seven-year period.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the population of UP was only 49 million and increased very slowly until 1951 (0.52 percent per annum) to reach 63 million. This was the period marked by high birth and death rates. The population increased rapidly in the next five decades due to a faster decline in the death rate compared to the birth rate. The population of the state increased from 63 million in 1951 to about 170 million in 2000, an addition of 117 million in the last five decades compared to an addition of only 15 million in the previous five decades. The population of the state is increasing at 2.19 percent per year (SRS, 1998). This implies that the state at present is adding a population of 3.8 million every year and more than 10 million every three years.

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