New Delhi, Nov 19 (UNI) The government today admitted in the Rajya Sabha that there had been a continuous increase in the absolute number of illiterates in the country despite the growing literacy rate.
''However, for the first time in 2001, the total number of illiterates registered a declining trend with their number pegged at 304.11 million as compared to 328.88 million in 1991,'' Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh said, in a written reply to a question.
Mr Singh said this statistics worked out to reduction in illiteracy from 47.8 per cent of the population in 1991 to 35.2 per cent in 2001.
Quoting the Human Development Report, 2006, he said India ranks 126th out of the 177 countries covered by the report.
Pointing out that adult literacy was only one of the several variables on the basis of which the Human Development Index is calculated, he said it would be incorrect to say that the illiteracy rate had not been reduced despite major schemes like the National Literacy Mission (NLM) and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).
Mr Singh said the decline in the number and percentage of the illiterate persons could be attributed largely to the activities under the elementary education and adult education programmes.
Under the SSA, he pointed out that substantially larger enrolment of children had been recorded as also a fall in the number of out-of-school children.