April 1, 2011


[But the census’s most alarming finding is the continuing preference for sons over daughters in Indian society. In the past decade, the ratio of girls to boys for children age 6 and younger has plunged to 914 girls per 1,000 boys. The ratio was 927 girls to 1,000 boys in the previous census.]

NEW DELHI — India added more than 181 million people to its swelling population in the past decade, growing to more than 1.21 billion people, according to official census data released Thursday.

“We are now over 17 percent of the world population, and India is 2.4 percent of the world’s surface area,” said C. Chandramouli, India’s census commissioner. “We have added the population of Brazil to India’s numbers this time.”

The total population grew from 1.03 billion people in 2001 to 1.21 billion this year, or an increase of 17 percent, according to the preliminary calculations of the massive census exercise that ended in February.

The population of India — the world’s second most populous nation after China — now almost equals the combined populations of the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan.

But the census’s most alarming finding is the continuing preference for sons over daughters in Indian society. In the past decade, the ratio of girls to boys for children age 6 and younger has plunged to 914 girls per 1,000 boys. The ratio was 927 girls to 1,000 boys in the previous census.

“This is a matter of grave concern. This is the lowest ever in the demographic history of the country,” Chandramouli said. “The tendency has worsened.”

In many parts of India, female fetuses are aborted or female infants killed soon after birth by families that look upon daughters as a financial burden. The trend is worse in the states where people are prosperous and educated, including the northern state of Punjab and the western state of Gujarat.

The trend has continued despite the government forbidding the use of ultrasound tests to reveal the gender of a fetus to its family.

“Whatever policy measures we have been following in the last 40 years will need a complete review now. They have not been effective,” said India’s home secretary, G.K. Pillai.

The overall ratio of females to males in India has improved, with 940 women per 1,000 men now, compared with 933 females per 1,000 males a decade ago. But the national capital region of Delhi has recorded a much lower gender ratio, with 866 females per 1,000 males.

The literacy rate also has gone up. Almost 74 percent of Indians are literate, a jump from 64 percent in 2001. The growth in the number of females who are literate has outpaced that of males.

Overall, India’s population grew during the past decade at a rate of more than 17 percent. This rate was slower than the 21 percent growth recorded between 1991 and 2001, or the 23 percent growth rate for the census before that. It represents the sharpest decline in the rate of growth since India’s independence in 1947.

But the absolute population numbers nevertheless continue to rise — an ongoing cause of concern for many analysts.

The population growth rate also varies wildly between states — another cause for worry, experts say.

“Our federal government sends funds to the states according to their population. This means that the states that have worked harder to reduce their population growth get less money from New Delhi,” said Devendra Kothari, a consultant to Management Institute of Population and Development. “The states with lesser population send fewer members to the Indian parliament. Their financial and political clout will go down.”
Officials said that final census numbers would be released over the next year.

The author of a book on Mahatma Gandhi has said it is "shameful" that it has been banned in India's western state of Gujarat.

Pulitzer Prize winning author Joseph Lelyveld said the book was banned on the basis of newspaper reviews.

He said the reviews had sensationalised his account of Gandhi's friendship with a German man, who may have been homosexual.

Although legal, homosexuality still carries a stigma in India.

Gujarat's state assembly voted unanimously on Wednesday immediately to ban Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India - even though it has not yet been released in India and few people will have read it.

"In a country (India) that calls itself a democracy, it is shameful to ban a book that no one has read, including the people who are doing the banning," Mr Lelyveld was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.

'Extreme step'

"They should at least make an effort to see the pages that they think offend them before they take such an extreme step. I find it very discouraging to think that India would so limit discussion," he said.

Indian writers and relatives of Mahatma Gandhi have protested against the ban.
Gandhi's great grandson Tushar Gandhi said he was against banning of books, and that it did not matter "if the Mahatma was straight, gay or bisexual".

"Every time he would still be the man who led India to freedom".

Writer Namita Gokhale said she was saddened by the ban.
"Every time a book is banned, it saddens me because you simply cannot ban ideas, you cannot ban thoughts." she said.

"In India a democratic space for ideas is a gift and I think banning a book is the most pointless exercise."

Mr Lelyveld has denied writing that Gandhi was a bisexual, saying his work had been taken out of context.

"I do not allege that Gandhi is a racist or bisexual in Great Soul," he told the Times of India.

"The word 'bisexual' nowhere appears in the book."
However reviews of the book give detailed comment on its coverage of his alleged affair with Hermann Kallenbach - a German architect, who emigrated to South Africa, where he met Gandhi in 1904.

"How completely you have taken possession of my body," reads one widely quoted letter from Gandhi to Mr Kallenbach in the book. "This is slavery with a vengeance."

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said that contents of the book were "perverse and defamed the icon of non-violence".

By Ralf Polo 
KATHMANDU: The cat is out of the bag and Nepal can sit smug and enjoy the limelight while other blue chip tourism destinations turn green with envy. 
Prince William and Kate Middleton have decided on Nepal for their honeymoon and are expected to land up in Kathmandu a week after their April 29 royal wedding at Westminster Abbey, London. 
Prince William of Wales is second in line of inheritance to the British throne after his father Prince Charles of Wales. According to a report in the London Times today, Prince William and Kate had decided on Nepal because of its ‘mystical and romantic charm’ despite rumours of them heading down under to Australia. The report said that Lowbrow Pinkelton, private secretary of Prince William, who is responsible for his travel arrangements, formally confirmed that the royal couple would indeed spend a week in Nepal in early May and that logistics and security details were being worked out. While the British Embassy in Kathmandu was tight-lipped about the VIP visit, the senior official stated, “The embassy does not confirm or deny the high profile visit.” 
However, a highly-placed source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the royal couple would spend a couple of days in Kathmandu at the Gokarna Resort while a royal suite is being readied for the newly weds. “Our staff are working round the clock to get the suite in the new wing of the resort ready,” a hotel staffer said. However Hotel Vice President Dorjee Sherpa refused to confirm if the royal couple would be staying at his property. “No comment,” he quipped. 
The sources further said three helicopters belonging to Dynasty Air and a single engine Pilatus Porter aircraft belonging to Yeti Airlines have been hired to ferry the royal couple and their entourage. Spokespersons for Dynasty Air and Yeti Airlines confirmed the booking. 
After their sojourn in Kathmandu, the royal couple would leave for the Everest region by a chopper and check into Hotel Everest View which happens to be the highest located hotel in the world situated at 3,880 m in the Sagarmatha National Park commanding a spectacular view of Mt Everest. “The royal couple will get a top of the world feeling. That is assured,” said Himal Sherpa, general manager of Hotel Everest View, while confirming the Royal booking. He said the guests would be spending four nights at the hotel. “The hotel will be shut for rest of the world during that period,” he said. 
The couple would be accompanied by aides and security detail. “Security teams have already inspected the hotel and we have been given instructions to ensure privacy from the paparazzi and even the staff will be hand-picked and screened,” he stated. They will also make a trip to Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve in West Nepal that is a dedicated area where certain wild species are permitted to be culled. The Reserve staff have been instructed to make sure the royal couple get a sighting of the exotic yet rare Blue sheep. 
While the royal wedding is slated to be the biggest event in terms of media coverage, Nepal stands to enjoy unlimited free publicity and recognition that will provide an unexpected boost to the Nepal Tourism Year 2011. Yatra Gurung, spokesperson for the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, said a high-level task force would be formed with representation from line ministries, Nepal Tourism Board, tourism entrepreneurs and stakeholders to roll out the carpet and make sure Nepal is seen in the best light. “This is a boon to the Nepal Tourism Year-2011 and we have an opportunity to showcase the very best tourism products that Nepal has to offer,” Gurung stated. 
“It will also open up the gates for high profile celebrities to visit as well as enthrone Nepal as the most romantic, mystical and favoured honeymoon destination.” 

@ The Himalayan Times