Naxal-hit areas of Chhattisgarh see sharp decline in population

Industrialisation and forced sterilisation programmes may be some reasons for the trend

By Midhat Moini
Published: Monday 09 June 2014

Growth of population in Chhattisgarh’s Naxalite-hit areas like Bijapur and Dantewada has seen a sharp decline and the number of people residing in Raipur, the capital of the state, has increased rapidly, according to the recently-released census figures of 2011 for the state.
According to a few experts, the trend can be attributed to decrease in livelihood opportunities (caused by deforestation) and counter-insurgency operations resulting in large-scale migration out of the Naxalite and tribal belt of Chhattisgarh.
The figures suggest that districts like Bijapur, Nanarayanpur, Kankar, Dhantar, Dantewada, Bastar, Koriya, Sarguja and Korbahave witnessed a sharp decrease in the growth rate of population in the last three decades. Out of these, population numbers in Bijapur, Koriya and Dhantar have seen maximum decline.

In Bijapur, the population growth rate in 1991 was 32.10 per cent which reduced to 19.30 per cent in 2001 and declined further to 8.78 per cent in 2011. The figures for Koriya stand at 30.15 per cent in 1991, 17.09 per cent in 2001 and 12.38 per cent in 2011. Check out the table below to see the decline in various districts in the belt:

District Census year Decreasing rate of population growth (in %)
Koriya 1991 30.15
  2001 17.09
  2011 12.38
Surguja 1991 26.68
  2001 24.67
  2011 19.66
Jahpur 1991 17.01
  2001 13.23
  2011 14.6
Korba 1991 34.86
  2001 22.51
  2011 19.25
Janjgir-Champa 1991 31.35
  2001 18.67
  2011 22.94
Dhantar 1991 24.15
  2001 20.23
  2011 13.19
Uttar Bastar Kanker 1991 23.67
  2001 18.68
  2011 15.06
Bastar 1991 23.36
  2001 18.18
  2011 17.96
Dakshin Bastar, Dantewada 1991 17.6
  2001 14.09
  2011 12.08
Narayanpur 1991 28.82
  2001 23.42
  2011 19.16
Bijapur 1991 32.1
  2001 19.3
  2011 8.78

While the tribal belt is witnessing a decline, inward migration may have led to an opposite trend in the capital and a few other towns. In Raipur, the growth rate of population has increased from 19.29 per cent in 2001 to 34.70 per cent in 2011. Kabeerdhan also showed similar trends with the rate increasing from 19.29 per cent in 2001 to 34.70 per cent in 2011.

The CAG report of 2013 had also pointed to loss of forestland, triggered by large-scale industrialisation, as a reason for outward migration of tribals.

“Citing the CAG report, J Marianus Kujur, head of department of tribal studies of Indian Social Institute, said: “The poverty-stricken tribals whose main habitat and livelihood, the forests, are being taken over for industrial development are left with no other option but to migrate to bigger towns and become cheap labour,” said Kujur.

Health in times of conflict

Migration, experts say, may not be the only reason for declining population trend. “Living in constant fear and turmoil can also negatively affect fertility of the people of the region,” says Binayak Sen, an activist who has worked on health issues among tribals in the state. He added that “factors like malnutrition and chronic hunger affect fertility and result in population decline in the long run.”

Academicians, however, attribute the declining rate to civilian militia Salwa Judum which was deployed by the state government for anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh. It was started in 2006 but was termed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and rendered unoperational in 2011.

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A study conducted by Nandini Sundar, a Delhi-based academician, showed that more than 47,000 people from villages of districts of Dantewada, Bijapur and Sukma were evacuated and forced to live in relief camps. “Around 644 villages were forcefully evacuated in harsher times,” added Sundar who also hinted at misuse of family planning programmes and forced sterilisation becoming a norm in those areas.

Another academician and human rights activist, Bela Bhatia, blamed the counter insurgency operations like Salwa Judum for displacement and large-scale migration from conflict-affected zones.

On the condition of anonymity, a health activist working for a decade among tribals said, “Laparoscopic sterilisation is being forced on poor population and reports of people dying in sterilisation camps are common.”
Anurag Modi, a Madhya Pradesh-based tribal activist, blamed the trend to human trafficking. “Disappearance of a large number of tribal girls, who are either abducted or sold in states like Haryana which has poor sex ratio, could be another kind of  forced migration, he said.

Report: Community MGNREGS programme for naxalite affected areas

Feature: On the Naxalite movement: A report with a difference

Report: Development challenges in extremist affected areas 

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