Contrary to the trend in other states and the national average, the birth rate in Bihar (number of births per 1,000 people) rose marginally from 26.3 to 26.8 from 2015 to 2016, shows the Sample Registration System (SRS) survey commissioned by the Registrar General of India (see chart 1).
When the birth rate reduces, population growth rate reduces—as has been happening in all Indian states—and fewer and fewer newborn are added every year. India’s birth rate consistently glided down, from 21.8 to 20.4, in the five years to 2016.
Yet, says the SRS report, Bihar added more people in 2016 than it had in 2015. With about 100 million population, it added (survey estimate) 2.63 mn in 2015 and 2.68 mn in 2016, while all other states added less of newborns.
"The marginal rise in birth rate is coincident with a rapid success in curtailing still births in the state", Phuleshwar Jha, program head of maternal health at Bihar state health society told Business Standard. Still birth rate in Bihar fell from 16.7 still births per 1,000 people in 2014-15 to 12.8 in 2016-17, according to the state's health department data.
“This anomaly needs to be analysed in detail but, primarily, reduced uptake in contraception use and state-wide unavailability of long-term contraception medicine could be factors,” Meena Samant, secretary at the Patna Obstetric and Gynaecological Society, told Business Standard.
Use of contraceptives in Bihar dropped 10 percentage points from 34.1 to 24.1 per cent between 2005-06 and 2015-16, according to National Family Health Survey data. The drop is steeper, and from a lower base, than the three percentage point drop nationwide, from 56.3 to 53.5 (see chart 2).
Female sterilisation reduced from 23.8 to 20.7 per cent in a decade to 2015-16. Usage of condoms reduced from two per cent to one per cent; nationwide, there was an increase, from 5.2 to 5.6 per cent.
Bihar is one of the states from the Hindi belt whose fertility rate—average number of children born per woman—is higher at 3.4 children per woman than the national average of 2.2 but has been reducing gradually over time.
India’s population growth peaked during the 1961-1981 period. After that, though numbers are on the rise, its growth rate has been receding. Meaning the population explosion is tapering, for all Indian states, including Bihar. Yet, Bihar leads big states in growth rate at 25 per cent, eight percentage points higher than the national average (see chart 3).
The SRS survey, pointing to an increase in this growth rate, goes hand in hand with this trend.
“The rise in birth rate in Bihar is in narrow pockets, not a trend reflected across the state, and is mostly on account of reduced migration owing to development in the state,” a Census official said on condition of anonymity.
Infant health up
One item of good news
is that India’s infant mortality rate—deaths per 1,000 live births—improved from 129 in 1971 (when the SRS surveys started) to 44 in 2011 and 34 in 2016. Yet, National Family Health Survey-4 puts India’s IMR at 41 per 1,000 live births now, worse than what the SRS finds (see chart 4).
In the 45-year period under examination, the birth rate in India reduced from 36.9 per 1,000 population to 16.4. The death rate reduced from 14.9 to 6.8.
With a vicious circle of population expansion and poverty defined by low per capita incomes, Bihar is situated in the lower rungs of human development, as represented by health and education indicators. The growth model of Bihar made headlines when the state clocked annual growth rates above 10 per cent between 2005 and 2010, which helped change its image from a poor state to a developing one.
SRS was started on a full scale in 1969-70, to generate reliable and continuous data on births, deaths, fertility and mortality indicators. The latest SRS bulletin, issued last month, carries the data for 2016, collected in the period from 2014 to 2016.