Junior home minister Nityanand Rai, in written reply to a question on whether India had become the most populous country in the world, said while the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, online publication Population Division and the World Population Prospects 2022 had projected the population of China on July 1, 2023 at 142.6 crore, “the projected population of India, as per report of the technical group on population projections published by National Commission on Population, ministry of health and family welfare, is 139.2 crore”.
One of the key highlights of the World Population Prospects 2022 was its projection that the population of India, the world’s second most populous country, would match that of China in April 2023 and overtake it by July 1, 2023.
Incidentally, while the last population census in China was conducted in 2020, India has not undertaken the decennial census exercise since 2011, with Covid having delayed the demographic exercise that was scheduled to be held in 2021. The UN, therefore, had to rely on information about levels and trends in fertility, mortality and international migration obtained from other vital records, surveys and administrative data to estimate and project the size of the Indian and Chinese populations for subsequent years after their last censuses.
“Uncertainty associated with the resulting estimates and projections implies that the date on which India is expected to surpass China in population size is approximate and subject to revision…,” the UN document had conceded in April 2023.
Rai parried a separate question on demands by some parties and organisations to conduct caste census, saying the government has not enumerated caste-wise population, other than for SCs and STs, in census since Independence.