India’s Population – Relatively Speaking

It is amazing that figures that compare India with other countries are hardly ever put in relation to the population. India is huge, unlike any other country except for China, and one certainly would expect that, next to the real, the relative figures are also given. For example, a major national newspaper blared some time ago: “India is the Murder Capital of the World”.

Recently media all over the world were berating India over the frequent incidences of rape. India’s image has been dealt a severe blow. Yet when one puts the figures into relation to the population, it turns out that the USA for example, is still far ahead. It has about double the number of murders and rapes compared to India. Why would the media not mention it? It is amazing.

Yet some time ago, i was not amazed, but got a shock: Everyone in India knows from direct experience that the country is heavily populated. Many might also know that the population has grown almost 200 millions in the last 10 years.  So I finally checked how the population of India relates to that of other countries (data was partly from 2010). That’s when i got a shock:

If China would have the same population density as India, it would have a population of 3600 instead of her 1330 million. The USA would have also some 3700 million inhabitants instead of a mere 315 million.

Or the other way round: If India were as densely populated as the USA, it would have only about 100 million. i.e. in the whole of India, only Bihar would be populated and not a single human being anywhere else in this huge land.

If Australia would be as dense as India, it would have a whopping 2900 million instead of only 20 million. Kazakhstan would have 990 million instead of now only 15. Mongolia would have 570 million instead of the present unbelievably low 3 million. Malaysia would have 120 million instead of 25, and Indonesia some 690 instead of 247 million. Russia would take the cake. If it was as densely populated as India, it would harbour almost the present day world population – 6130 million. Of course, Russia has many inhabitable places. But let’s go to Europe.

The 27 countries of the EU have around 500 million people. They would have 1600 million, if the EU were as densely populated as India. Germany would have 140 million instead of the present 81. United Kingdom would have 95 million instead of 62. Italy would have 110 million instead of 58. France would have 200 instead of 62 million…

The situation gets even worse when we compare India’s densely populated states Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. These two states have an area that is a little smaller than Germany. However, instead of 81 million, over 310 million people live in those two states, plus tigers, leopards, elephants, monkeys, etc.

Germany would not only need to accommodate the whole population of France, but also that of Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. This situation is inconceivable. People would be at each other’s throat.

It is mindboggling, especially as countries like Germany even with their present relatively (relative to India) ‘low’ population density look full and would not have place for even one tiger or leopard and actually have no place for even one indigenous bear, as the fate of the bear Bruno shows:

Italy had a few bears in the Alps and one of them wandered across the border to Germany. People were excited and welcomed that wildlife was back in their land. Yet when the bear entered a farm and killed an animal, the locals were up in arms and demanded the bear to be shot. It was shot by the forest department.

Afterwards, there was great emotional outpouring by city folks. Cases were filed against the forest department. Bruno should have never strayed to Germany, was lamented. He should not have been shot but sent back to Italy, was said. Yet i am sure that, if the bear had attacked the first human being, most would have demanded for it to be shot, never mind in which European country.

Compared to the west, India is incredibly tolerant towards wild animals. Some months ago, i collected newspaper clippings of man animal conflict in India. I stopped collecting after a few weeks. There were simply too many incidents of a big cat or an elephant attacking human beings. After checking the population figures, i am not surprised anymore, especially since the population density for example in West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala is double or even triple the national average.

Of course i wish for the big cats and elephants to survive in India. Yet is it advisable to try to increase their numbers? I don’t know what the solution is. But one thing is for sure. Westerners have no right to tell India to keep or increase their wildlife, never mind how much money they pour into wildlife funds.

Westerners anyway seem very fickle minded. Only hundred years ago, they considered it fashionable to shoot ‘game’, as wild animals were called. Today, they are depressed when one bear is shot, yet demand and merrily eat their steak.

India is the one country on earth that does not subscribe to the philosophy that man has to dominate nature. India shows to the world how it is possible to live relatively amiable on little space and even share it with wild animals that ever so often claim human lives. Westerners could not do it or rather, they would not do it.

by Maria Wirth



  1. varungoyalindia · · Reply

    Reblogged this on Varun Goyal and commented:
    Yeah, that right to every inch.! My friends, i do tell my listeners many a times that dont creep on the notion that crime in India is on rise, rapes are horrible and are on rise.
    Definitely, they are on rise, but you see the greatness of this nation, or people living here: that in 2009, Indian crime branch reported 21397 registered rapes, and US reported 1,25000 rapes, in 2008, India reported 21,467 rapes and US reported 2,30,830 rapes.
    NOTE: India is home to 17% of world’s population having 2.4% of the world land area, whereas US has 4% of world’s population and have 16% of land area.!!!!
    I don’t mean to say that rapes in India are not a problem. Yes they are. They have to be controlled.! But this may be the result of fast eroding morals of Indian owing to.. you know what.!! This is a bigger debate, will do one day..!!

  2. Hi,
    I recently came across your blog. I have read many articles and have enjoyed them.

    This particular article reminded me of the following essay by George Perkovich which I had read on india-seminar magazine webpage. I found it one of the best ways of telling foreigners how big/diverse/complicated India is. I think you might also find it useful.

    The measure of India: what makes greatness? – George Perkovich : mainly the last two paragraphs (from “I close with a thought experiment …” onwards).

    1. Thanks for the link. Yes, US would not be able to manage a United States of all Americas with its (only) 824 million people in North and South America.
      India has 400 million more people at present (it changes rapidly). However, Perkovich fails to mention that the area of the Americas is about 10 times the size of India.
      The lack of space is already a big problem in India.

  3. Because Indian media and english literate suffer a deep inferiority complex, vis-a-vis west. And they want to be see holding western values and the outrage, but the fact remains, that these people are undereducated and mentally colonized.

  4. unborn · · Reply

    Excellent article and a big slap to main stream media blowing out of proportions and in that selectively hiding some and 24×7 broad casting some other. For appeasing vote bank/politics.

  5. As usual very well articulated article Maria.

  6. […] The article first appeared as – […]

  7. Thank you very much, Ms Wirth, for your article.
    A very different perspective on population density than we see usually. The interesting thing here is the very negative attitudes to India in almost any press worldwide. I wonder why this is so? Do you think that this could be because of some specific characterestics of Indian personal behaviour?
    I have often wondered.
    On another point – your analysis about the changing nature of the Indian connectivity with theeir roots – absolutely right.
    What this will do to their relationship with the animals and their holistic thinking on life – I shudder to think on what it will be 20 years hence.

  8. Asit Mehta · · Reply

    To justify high number of crimes ( rapes, murders etc ) and deaths ( in road accidents, infant mortalities etc ) under the pretext of mammoth population is simply PATHETIC and WOEFUL !!

    Nobody/nothing is stopping us from ruthlessly and effectively controlling our own population and achieving reduction in these highly avoidable human tragedies , thereby also enhancing our National charactor and living standards !!

    Political and Bureaucratic Inability ( viz total failure and cowardice of Leadership ) to control population should NEVER be the basis of feeling SMUG about our high volume of Dismal failures. Comparing such failures in a manner to suit us is nothing but ABJECT callousness !!

    1. who justifies high number of crimes? what i asked for is to puyt the number in relation to the population which makes sense, does it not?

  9. Brijesh agrawal · · Reply

    Hi, u r absolutely right about india .but u thought why indians most tolerated people.about 80% indians are hindus in religion. In hinduism non violence is major trust. Non violence with humans and non violence with animals also.due to this fact most of people of india are vegetarian. Fact that 70% vegetarian people of the whole world lives only in india.

  10. h ramaswamy gopal · · Reply

    We Indians always tend to under rate ourselves.. West to us is for us to admire and emulate. Westerners too think that we are still very backward in all respects in spite of our glorious past. This can only be reversed if we change our attitude drastically and realise that we were a great nation and can still be if we get together and try sincerely. For us the Guiding line is VASUDAIVAKUTUMBAM.

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