Rajasthan, located in the north-west of India, is the country’s largest state covering 10.4 percent of the total area. It is also one of the most vibrant states with its rich culture, heritage, art, folk tradition, cuisine and varied wildlife. The land is endowed with invincible forts, magnificent palace havelis and abundant natural resources. Formed during the reorganization of the states in 1956 by merging several erstwhile princely states, Rajasthan is also one of the oldest states of the country.
The state is divided into 10 agro-climatic zones and encompasses most of the area of the large Great Indian Desert (The Thar Desert), which runs parallel to the Sutlej-Indus river valley along the border with Pakistan. The state is bordered by Pakistan to the west, Gujarat to the south-west, Madhya Pradesh to the south-east, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to the north-east and Punjab to the north.
Its large tracts of arid and semi-arid central and west-central regions witness low and erratic rainfall, while the fertile north and south regions are well endowed with rainfall and are also the source of most of its agriculture production. Apart from agriculture, due to its vast arid and semi-arid tracts, animal husbandry forms one of the main livelihood options for the people of the state.
The dry central and hilly southern regions of the state have several rich mineral and oil/gas reserves, prominent among them being lignite, copper, lead, zinc, gypsum, limestone and rock phosphate. It also holds vast hydro-carbon reserves including oil, lean gas and high-quality natural gas. The southern part of the state is marked by the Aravalli mountain range, which is the oldest in India.
The major rivers of the state include Luni, Chambal, Banas, Kali, Banganga and Sabarmati and most of them flow in the eastern and southern parts of the state. The northern part of the state has the Indira Gandhi Canal, one of the biggest canals of the country and irrigates nearly 10,000 square kilometers, thus helping in arresting further spread of desertification.
Ranked 20 out of 29 Indian states on human development indicators, Rajasthan has a Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.434 (2007-08)1. Although its literacy rate increased by 6.65 percent from 60.41 percent in 2001 to 67.06 percent in 20112, female literacy remains a key challenge for policymakers. This is because the gender gap in literacy (male literacy- 80.51 percent and female literacy- 52.66 percent) is one of the highest among the states.
Rajasthan also suffers from a low sex ratio of 926 females per thousand males. Similarly, child sex ratio is also very low at 883 females per thousand males. The state fares poorly on other health indicators as well. For example, according to the Sample Registration System 2010, infant mortality in the state is 59 per thousand live births and maternal mortality rate is 318 per hundred thousand births, the latter being much higher than the national average of 212.
With a rapidly growing population, the per capita income is also lower at INR 23,669 as compared to the national average of INR 33,7313. The contribution of agriculture and industry to the Net State Domestic Product (NSDP) is low at 19.6 percent and 16.68 percent respectively while the contribution of the services sector to NSDP is at a high of 63.71 percent, driven primarily by the large hospitality sector in the state.
Even though the population density of the state (201 persons per square kilometer) is much lower than the national average (324 persons per square kilometer), with over 68 million inhabitants4, Rajasthan is the still the eighth-most populous state in the country and constitutes 5.67 percent of the total population. It has also witnessed a decadal increase of 21.4 percent in its population over 2001. Out of this, nearly 30 percent belongs to the vulnerable communities- Scheduled Castes comprising 19.2 percent and Scheduled Tribes 13 percent of the total population. Further, about three-fourths of the population resides in rural areas.
According to the Tendulkar Committee Report 2009, about 34.4 percent of the state’s population lives below the poverty line. However, if factors beyond income are considered (Multidimensional Poverty Index)5, about 62.8 percent of the state’s population is poor.
Rajasthan, being a desert state, has a very sparse forest cover compared to other Indian states. Although the recorded forest area of the state is 9.54 percent of the total geographical area, based on satellite data of 2008, the forest cover of the state is only 4.7 percent of the total geographical area and tree cover only 2.42 percent6. Most of the forest cover of the state is limited to four districts- Alwar (1,205 forests), Sawai Madhopur (1,300), Udaipur (3,118) and Chittorgarh (1,687), and consists largely of Tropical Dry Deciduous and Tropical Thorn Forests. In the period 2004 and 2006, nearly 28 square kilometers of the Open Forest has degraded into either scrubs or non-forest area.
Rajasthan has five national parks and 25 wildlife sanctuaries covering 2.7 percent of the state’s geographical area. Out of the five national parks, two- Ranthambhore and Sariska, are tiger reserves. These reserves host several species of animals and birds like Black Buck, four-horned Antelope and many species of eagles, heron, cranes and storks- the most famous being the Siberian Crane.
Nearly 70 percent of the population of the state is dependent on agriculture7, which is primarily rainfed. Despite recurrent droughts every 3-4 years and a high dependence on ground water sources, which are depleting, Rajasthan has taken significant strides to become self-sufficient in both cereals and pulses. The state is also rich in agro-biodiversity including medicinal and aromatic plants, seed spices and legumes.
Only 64 percent of Rajasthan’s geographical area is cultivable, the remaining is either fallow forested or not available for cultivation. The net cultivable area of Rajasthan is 220 lakh hectares and about 43 percent of this area is under irrigation. The ground water situation in the state is alarming and has deteriorated fast in the last two decades. Out of 249 blocks, nearly 200 blocks are in the highly critical zone. Though the average landholding size is 3.38 hectares, productivity is low with the average yield per hectare at 934 kg and makes agriculture as a sole occupation.
Animal husbandry is the major economic activity of people living in the vast arid/semi-arid stretches and rural areas of the state, which have limited on-farm options, contributing eight percent to the GDP. According to the 2007 Livestock Census of Rajasthan, there are 56.66 million livestock (21 percent cattle and 58 percent Sheep/Goat) and five million poultry in the state. Fodder production for these cattle (highest in the country) is also an important agricultural concern, since existing pastures are unable to meet the fodder requirement of the livestock population.
The main Kharif crops of Rajasthan are bajra, jowar, pulses, maize and groundnut, while the Rabi crops include wheat, gram, pulses and oilseeds, mainly mustard and rapeseed. Some areas of south Rajasthan- Banswada, Udaipur and Dungarpur, which have rich black cotton soil also grow cotton.
Though there are very high variations in the annual agricultural production in Rajasthan, the average annual production is around 13 million tons of foodgrains and 4.4 million tons of oilseeds. Foodgrains account for almost two-thirds of the cultivated area and dominate the cropping pattern.
1 Source: India Human Development Report 2011- Towards Social Inclusion
2 Source: Census of India 2011, Provisional Tables, Registrar General of India
3 RBI Handbook of Statistics on Indian Economy and Economic Survey of India 2010-11
4 Source: Census of India 2011, Provisional Table, Registrar General of India
5 The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), published for the first time in the 2010 Human Development Report, complements money-based measures by considering multiple deprivations and their overlap. The index identifies deprivations across the same three dimensions as the HDI and shows the number of people who are multidimensionally poor (suffering deprivations in 33% of weighted indicators) and the number of deprivations with which poor households typically contend. It can be deconstructed by region, ethnicity and other groupings as well as by dimension, making it an apt tool for policymakers. Source: Human Development Report 2010- The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development
6 Source: India State of the Forest Report 2011
7 Rajasthan Human Development Report 2002
At a Glance:
Area: 342,269 square kilometres
Population: 68 million
HDI value: 0.434
Poverty Rate: 34.4%
Literacy Rate: 67.06% (80.51% male; 52.66% female)
Sex Ratio: 926 females per thousand males
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