6th September, 2003
Ministry of Human Resource Development  


LITERACY IN INDIA: STEADY MARCH OVER THE YEARS


Eighth September is the International Literacy Day.

When India gained independence, four out of five of her citizen could not read. Thanks to various initiatives and interventions over the years, three out of five Indians can now read and write. The fast growth in literacy in the recent decades even in the face of huge additions to the population depicts a remarkable positive trend. At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the fact that India still have a long way to go towards the goal of total literacy. Out of about 87 crore illiterate adults in the world, 30 crore are Indians.

The figures here sketch a picture of literacy in India vis-à-vis her neighbours and how it has grown since 1951. Statewise figures of literacy are given to show regional variations, especially to highlight the educationally backward areas of the country.

Highlights of Census 2001

    • Literacy rate has increased to 65.38%, which reflects an overall increase of 13.17%, the fastest decadal growth ever. This is the highest rate since independence.
    • Male literacy rate has increased to 75.85%, which shows an increase of 11.72%. On the other hand, female literacy of 54.16% has been reached at a much faster rate of 14.87%.
    • The male-female literacy gap has reduced from 24.84% in 1991 to 21.70% in 2001. Mizoram has the smallest gap (4.56%) followed by Kerala (7.45%) and Meghalaya (8.27%).

      Year

      Literacy Rate

      Total

      Male

      Female

      Differential

      1951

      18.33

      27.16

      8.86

      18.30

      1961

      28.30

      40.40

      15.35

      25.05

      1971

      34.45

      45.95

      21.97

      23.98

      1981

      43.57

      56.38

      29.76

      26.62

      1991

      52.21

      64.13

      39.29

      24.84

      2001

      65.38

      75.85

      54.16

      21.69

      Comparison of male and female literacy rates since 1951
    • All States and Union Territories without exception have shown increase in literacy rates during 1991-2001. 
    • In all the States and Union Territories male literacy is now over 60%. 
    • For the first time since independence there has been a decline in the absolute number of illiterates during the decade. In the previous decades, there has been a continuous increase in the number of illiterates, despite the increase in the literacy rates, but now for the first time the total number of illiterates has come down by 31.96 million. 

    • The number of literate persons has increased to 562.01 million in 2001 thus adding an additional 203.61 million literates in the country.
    • Rajasthan has recorded the highest increase in the literacy rate among the States/UTs of India. Literacy rate of Rajasthan in 7+ population in 1991 was 38.55% which has increased to 61.3% in 2001. 
    • Rajasthan has also recorded very good increase in the female literacy. It was 20.44% in 1991 which has increased to 44.34% in 2001.
    • The female literacy rate of Chhattisgarh in 7+ population in 1991 was 27.52% which has increased to 52.40% in 2001. Thus the rise in female literacy rate in Chhattisgarh has been to the extent of 24.88% which is the highest among all the States/UTs of the country.

       

On the basis of literacy rate, State/UTs can be grouped as under:

    • High Literacy Rate (80% and above) Kerala (90.92%), Mizoram (88.49%), Lakshadweep (87.52%), Goa (82.32%), Delhi (81.82%), Chandigarh (81.76%), Pondicherry (81.49%), A & N Islands (81.18%) and Daman & Diu (81.09%). 
    • Literacy Rate above national average (65.4%) and below 80% - Maharashtra (77.27%), Himachal Pradesh (77.13%), Tripura (73.66%), Tamil Nadu (73.47), Uttaranchal (72.28%), Gujarat (69.97%), Punjab (69.75%), Sikkim (69.68%), West Bengal (69.22%), Manipur (68.87%), Haryana (68.59%), Nagaland (67.11%) and Karnataka (67.04%).
    • Literacy Rate below national average (65.4%) Chhattisgarh(65.18%), Assam (64.28%), Madhya Pradesh (64.11%), Orissa (63.61%), Meghalaya (63.31%), Andhra Pradesh (61.11%), Rajasthan (61.03%), Dadra & Nagar Haveli (60.03%), Uttar Pradesh (57.36%), Arunachal Pradesh (54.74%), Jammu & Kashmir (54.46%), Jharkhand (54.13%) and Bihar (47.53%).

     

Other comparisons

There are differences in literacy between urban and rural areas, there being perceptibly higher incidence of illiteracy in the villages.

 

Persons

Male

Female

All Areas

56.6 (65.20%)

33.9 (75.64%)

22.6 (54.03%)

Rural Areas

36.6 (59.21%)

22.6 (71.18%)

14.0 (46.58%)

Urban Areas

20.0 (80.06%)

11.3 (86.42%)

8.6 (72.99%)

The literacy in India as compared to other SAARC countries may be seen in the graph here. While Maldives and Sri Lanka have much higher rates of literacy, other countries have literacy below the Indian level.
 
Literacy rates among SAARC countries in 2000

 

 
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