The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Build boom outstrips rise in population

Construction of houses in Calcutta and elsewhere in West Bengal between 1991 and 2001 outstrips the growth in population, says a census report.

Vikram Sen, director of Census Operations, Bengal, said on Thursday that the decade’s growth in population in Bengal stood at 17.84 per cent, against a 25.16 per cent growth in the construction of houses. The highest growth in the construction of houses — 40.3 per cent — was recorded in Darjeeling district, while Calcutta’s was the lowest increase of 8.26 per cent.

Sen said the increase in the number of houses in Bengal meant there had been a boom in construction activities. “One reason is easy availability of loans,” he added. Single married couples occupy a high 74 per cent of the houses. “This also shows that more and more joint families are disintegrating and the number of nuclear families is on the rise,” said Sen.

The number of nuclear families was higher in the rural areas. While single married couples occupied 75.55 per cent of the houses in the rural areas, in the urban areas, the percentage was 71.8 per cent.

The report says that Calcutta has the highest percentage (94.9 per cent) of households using electricity. Hooghly district is a distant second, with 57.69 per cent, while Howrah is third, with 56.07 per cent. Calcutta has the highest number of families (48.41 per cent) using LPG for cooking; North 24-Parganas is a distant second with 23.57 per cent and Howrah third with 20.4 per cent. Calcutta has the lowest percentage (3.05 per cent) of households using firewood as fuel.

The report says there has been a serious decline in the number of factories, worksheds and workshops in the state. The number dropped by 1.13 lakh from 2.9 lakh in 1990 to 1.77 lakh in 2000.

Places of worship recorded an increase from 1.49 lakh in 1990 to 2.28 lakh in 2000. South 24-Parganas holds pride of place, with West and East Midnapore and North-24-Parganas close behind. Fewest places of worship, however, grew in Purulia.

To assess the effect of consumerism, the census report has for the first time included what percentage of the population uses televisions, radios, transistors, telephones, two-wheelers, motorcars and bicycles. In all, 26.56 per cent of the households have TVs, 38.64 per cent have radios or transistors, 6.7 per cent have telephones, 5.03 per cent have two-wheelers, 1.89 per cent have cars, jeeps or vans and 52.59 per cent have bicycles.

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