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These figures show a decrease, in the space of five or six years, of mortality from upwards of twenty thousand deaths a year to between ten and eleven thousand only. If this be a fact, it is a faot unprecedented in sanitation. Can it be true, it has been asked, that while 23,042 persons died in Calcutta in 1865 (when there was no famine), and more than 20,000 in the next year (when there was famine in the provinces), that only 10,102 died in 1870; 10,300 in 1871; and 11,823 in 1872. The interest of this inquiry becomes of the first importance when we are told that this decrease is simply the result of improved sanitation, or in other words that upwards of 10,000 lives a year are being saved by the mere adoption of a proper water-supply and effective drainage.
The system under which births and deaths have been and are __. _ .... collected in the city is as follows. The
System of registration. T .. J , , „
Justices are empowered under bection 94, Act VI (B. C.) of 1863, to keep a register, and Sections 98 and 99 of the Act render it penal on those who are bound to give information to refuse or neglect to do so. In 1864 the registration was first introduced, the town being divided into six districts for the purpose. The registrars appointed were with one exception medical men with some practice amongst their countrymen. In April 1868 these paid posts were abolished, partly on-the ground of economy, and partly because the accuracy of the returns were suspected, and the duties of the registrars were transferred to the police inspectors of the twenty-one sections into which Calcutta is divided for police purposes. The collection of the statistics has always been supervised by the Health Officer of the Justices. The mortuary data are now obtained from two sources. One set of returns is submitted weekly by each police inspector of the deaths occurring within his jurisdiction, whilst a second set is obtained from the sextons of the Christian cemeteries and the clerks at the several burning-ghauts and burial-grounds in the town and suburbs. The clerks are paid servants of the Justices employed in this duty alone, and they ascertain from those accompanying a corpse where the death occurred. Separate lists are prepared and furnished to the Health Officer of all deaths occurring in the suburbs.
Under the old system before 1868 were included only the births and deaths which occurred within the street boundaries of the town: under the new system not only the town is included, but also the Fort, Maidan, Coolie Bazaar, and the river boats and shipping.
It is the general conviction that an important change for the
better has taken place in the sanitary formerlyTM" ^ "heahhiei than condition of Calcutta, and it is impossible to attribute so general a convictiou simply to the improvement shown in the mortuary returns. It is more than probable that the city is far healthier than formerly. That this is a fact would seem to be strongly corroborated by the return of mortality supplied by the Calcutta hospitals. The following statement illustrates the prevalence of cholera in Calcutta from the year 1866 to 1871, and shows the proportion of cholera deaths in hospital, of the number of which there can be no doubt, to the cholera deaths reported by the Municipality. The hospitals referred to are the Medical College Hospital, the General Hospital, the Chandney Hospital, and the Municipal Pauper Hospital :—
Persons died out of every l,00u patients admitted.
The number of deaths from cholera reported by the Municipality is strongly corroborated by the fact that the number of cholera deaths in hospital preserves an almost even ratio of proportion. In the same connexion also it may be mentioned that at the four hospitals taken together—
In 1868 ... ... ... ... ... 179
„ 1869 ... ... ... ... ... 151
„ 1870 ... ... ... ... ... 153
„ 1871 ... ... ... - ... 126
Thus showing, no doubt, a healthier tendency among the patients. On the other hand there are many striking elements of suspicion
in the mortuary returns as they now of^tu^yrerrnf6 ^ appear. We are told that the gross
mortality of the city from 1868 to 1872 inclusive was but 59,372, of wliich no less than 19,677 were deaths of children under six years old. This would leave a mortality amongst all classes above six years of 39,695 or 7,939 a year, in a population of 413,137, or an annual rate of but 192 per 1,000 amongst persons of six years and upwards.
Throughout the whole period under review the death returns for all classes outside the Christian, Mahomedan, and Hindoo communities are shown as follows:—
Males. Females. Total.
1865 ... ... ... ... 16 5 21
1866 ... ... ... ... 28 1 29
1867 ... ... ... ... 17 5 22
1868 ... ... ... ... 22 7 29
1869 ... ... ... ... 12 2 14
1870 ... ... ... ... 10 2 12
1871 ... ... ... ... 2 1 3
1872 ... ... ... ... 3 ... 3
Thus we have 133 deaths returned as the mortality of a population of nearly 2,000 persons (1,920, census of 1872,) in eight years. In the last two years the casualties amongst these classes are declared to have been only six in number, while we may be reasonably certain that
they were many times as numerous. At the same time it must be recollected that among these small communities the Chinese and Parsees are so peculiar in the disposal of their dead and their places of sepulchre, that if we are to take them as a test alone the case would not be conclusive.
But turning to the Christian population of the city, we find ourselves in the presence of no less anomaly. The census returns of 1866 and 1872 respectively make the strength of this part of the population as follows:—
Males. Females. Total. 18G6 ... ... ... ... 13,531 9,460 22,991
1872 ... ... ... ... 12,917 8,-139 21,356
It is difficult to suppose that there are really 1,021 less Christian females in Calcutta in 1873 than there were in 1866, but such is the fact if the returns are to be trusted.
The mortality registers meanwhile show a death-rate in 1865-66 of 60'2 males to 32'8 females, while the death-rate of the six years 1S67-1872 accords with the census, and is 60'3 males to 39-7 females. More male children being born than female, the death-rate of the former is ever normally somewhat in excess of the latter; and the earlier returns accord with the fact, while the later ones show no appreciable difference between them, although, according to the census (1872), the children of the Christian population consisted of 1,693 males to 1,272 females. Either the census therefore is wrong, or the mortuary returns. The Census of Calcutta is unfortunately not at all trustworthy. The mortality returns, if correct, would probably show the ratio of mortality amongst the Christian male population to the female to be something like what it was in 1865-66.
The proportion of deaths between the sexes generally from 1865 to 1872, according to the returns, was as follows:—
Thus the average throughout the whole period was 60-6 males to 39-3 of females, a proportion that corresponds closely with the census of 1866, according to which the proportion between the sexes was 61 2 men to 38-8 women.
The correspondence is perhaps too close for accuracy, as the male death-rate should exceed the female. But the census of 1872 sets all comparison at defiance, since according to these returns but one-third of the population is female, the proportion being 67 males to 33 females. The mortuary returns are thus completely at variance with the census, for while the mortality of the last three years points to the existence of a growing proportion of females in the city, the census shows a heavy falling off in their numbers—
Ratio of mortality in 1870-1872 ... ... ,.. 59-5 40 4
Population according to new census ... ... 67-0 33 0
In last year's report, and in the chapter of the generalreport which deals with the census results, it has been explained that while throughout the country generally the census was very successfully taken with fair accuracy, there was the greatest doubt regarding the accuracy of the census of Calcutta taken by the Justices.
The figures sufficiently show that the mortuary statistics are not wholly accurate, but it may be that the error is rather in the census than in the mortuary returns. Probably the population is understated, and especially the female. The one fact of the excessive disproportion and inconsistency in the ratio of sexes demonstrates that we cannot trust the returns implicitly. It is still perhaps, however, too soon to give a decided opinion on the question, and farther inquiries are still being worked out under the Lieutenant-Governor's directions. It is not yet quite clear how the returns of the burial and burning enumerations are checked and compared with the police returns ; in what proportion the police returns are actually found to be deficient, and whether there are any vital differences in the systems of enumeration of 1865 and of 1S70-72, which would lead to so very large a difference of result. Investigation is also being made into the rate of mortality in different classes of the population in each or any of the last ten years; into the rate of mortality from different diseases, at different ages, and in different quarters of the town, or in towns and suburbs, respectively, if any quarters are distinguished.
The city of Calcutta is so wholly abnormal as regards the numerical .,,. , proportion of the sexes, and the birth
returns are so incorrect, and would be of so little value even if they were correct, that the inquiry into birth statistics is of very secondary importance.