The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Survey to defuse human bomb

Krishnagar, July 31: The government has taken up the task of creating a database on various facets of population in rural Bengal and asked panchayats to play an active part in the exercise.

One of the prime objectives of collecting the information is creating awareness in population control and maintaining healthy boy-girl and man-woman ratios.

A circular sent to the districts recently says it is time to get going as the state has the highest population density and steps have to be taken to prevent the situation from snowballing into a crisis. The survey will begin with Nadia.

'Now, we do not have any comprehensive data on rural population,' district magistrate Rajesh Pandey said.

'The communication from the panchayat and rural development department reached us a fortnight ago and we have already engaged about 1,000 health and anganwadi workers who will go door to door,' he added.

The survey, to be funded by the panchayats, would begin from August.

The circular also asks the rural bodies to form local committees to monitor childbirth and the number of children in their territories.

An official said panels comprising mothers have already been set up at the panchayat level to counsel newlyweds on the need to have fewer child- ren. 'We will also form committees headed by respectable village elders to launch the awareness drive,' Pandey said.

The survey would also record rates of child mortality, female literacy and child marriage. 'If we can create awareness about these things, we believe it will be possible to control the population as well,' said the district magistrate.

An official said ideally the number of children up to six years should be less than 14 per cent of the population. 'In Bengal, the figure is 15.5 per cent. In Nadia, Murshidabad, Birbhum and Bankura, it is around 26.' The higher percentage, the official added, indicates an increasing birth rate.

The panchayat and rural development department had raised a question in the circular ' if it was possible to provide basic healthcare, education and food for this huge number of children. 'These children are mainly born in backward families that have the lowest female literacy rates,' said a Nadia official.

The circular compares the state's figures with those of Kerala, which is cent per cent literate. 'In Bengal, for every 1,000 males there are 950 females. But in Kerala, the figure is 1,059 for females,' it says.

The circular also notes that 'more and more families in rural Bengal do not want to have girl child'.

Compared to Kerala, child mortality cases are also higher in Bengal. Here, 50 children out of 1,000 die before turning one. In Kerala, only 10 die before that age.

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