Places of worship vs. Schools and Hospitals

This week when the Office of the Registrar General of India released its findings of the houselisting exercise, virtually all of the media reported the mobile phones vs. toilets dichotomy like a feeding frenzy – even though a UN report informed us about this trend two years ago! So, while we are at it, comparing apples and oranges, let me present to you a refreshing headline finding: India has more places of worship than the number of schools and hospitals put together*.

Type of census house Total Rural Urban
Place of worship  3,013,140  2,419,700  593,440
School/ College etc.  2,106,530  1,702,048  404,482
Hospital/ Dispensary etc.  683,202  360,170  323,032
Schools + Hospitals  2,789,732  2,062,218  727,514

Source: Census – Houselisting and Housing Census Data Highlights – 2011, Figures at a Glance

Look closely and you will find a rural-urban twist: there are more places of worship (in comparison to schools and hospitals) in rural than in urban India. Does the data tell us something? Well, in a somewhat lighter vein, you could probably argue that since rural India lags its urban counterpart in almost every aspect of development, sab kuch is bhagwan bharose!

For a nuanced analysis, however, disaggregate the data by states and you will find that the data reveals a regional pattern: a majority of the states in the north east (Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya), and a bunch of union territories (Chandigarh, NCT of Delhi, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Puducherry) have fewer places of worships (than schools and hospitals). Some of the other states that deviate from the national picture are: Uttarakhand, Haryana, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. My guess is that the rural India does not have enough medical facilities and that is pulling the number of schools and hospitals down. A possible explanation for the NE states, MP, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh could be that these states have a relatively higher tribal population, who may not practice worship in a closed setting. What do you think? Leave your thoughts below.

To open spreadsheet in new tab/download data, click here.

*Clarification: Census definitions as specified in the instruction manual for house listing and housing census have been implied in this post. School refers to any educational institution or training centre such as pathshala, music school, carpentry training centre, coaching centre, school, college, dancing school, agricultural training centre, adult literacy centre, shorthand and typing institute, computer training centre, vocational training centre, Industrial training institute, etc. Hospital refers to hospital, dispensary, health centre, doctor’s clinic, pathological centre, nursing home, maternity home, dental clinic, vaccination centre, X-ray clinic, first-aid centre, etc. Place of worship refers to temple, gurudwara, mosque, church, prayer hall, satsangh hall, etc. In all cases the census house should be used exclusively for the relevant purpose.