Nearly 70 per cent of the country's population lives in rural areas where, for the first time since independence, the overall growth rate of population has sharply declined, according to the latest Census.
Of the 121 crore Indians, 83.3 crore live in rural areas while 37.7 crore stay in urban areas, said the Census of India's 2011 Provisional Population Totals of Rural-Urban Distribution in the country, released by Union Home Secretary R K Singh.
"For the first time since independence, the absolute increase in population is more in urban areas than in rural areas. The rural-urban distribution is 68.84 per cent and 31.16 per cent respectively," Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner C Chandramouli said.
The level of urbanization increased from 27.81 per cent in the 2001 Census to 31.16 per cent in the 2011 Census, while the proportion of rural population declined from 72.19 per cent to 68.84 per cent.
"The slowing down of the overall growth rate of population is due to the sharp decline in the growth rate in rural areas, while the growth rate in urban areas remains almost the same," Chandramouli said.
However, according to the report, the number of births in rural areas have increased by nine crore in the last decade.
The statistics reveal that while the maximum number of people living in rural areas in a particular state is 15.5 crore in Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai tops the list having the maximum number of people in urban areas at five crore.
The data also reflects that 18.62 per cent of the country's rural population lives in Uttar Pradesh and 13.48 per cent urban population lives in Maharashtra.
During 2001-11, the rate of growth of rural population has been 12.18 per cent.
The growth of the country's rural population is steadily declining since 1991, the report said.
Meghalaya (27 per cent) and Bihar (24 per cent) witnessed the largest growth in population among states in the past decade. Four states that recorded a decline in the rural population during 2001-11 are Kerala (by 26 per cent), Goa (19 per cent), Nagaland (15 per cent) and Sikkim (5 per cent).
Though the growth rate of population in rural areas of Empowered Action Group (EAG) states is nearly three times that in rural areas in non EAG states, it is for the first time that significant fall of growth rate is seen in the rural areas of EAG states.
The EAG states are Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa.
According to the report, though the urban child sex ratio is far worse than that in rural areas, the fall in child sex ratio in rural areas is around four times that in urban areas.
However, the decline in the child sex ratio is more gradual in urban areas, the report said.
There is a decline of 8.9 million children in rural areas while urban areas have shown increase of 3.9 million children.
The data shows there is an increase in the overall sex ratio in the country from 933 in 2001 to 940 in 2011.
However, the improvement in the overall sex ratio is largely in urban areas.
In rural areas in the country there has been an increase by only 1 point from 946 in 2001 to 947 in 2011.
In urban areas there has been an appreciable gain of 26 points from 900 in 2001 to 926 in 2011.
In 10 states and UTs, the urban sex ratio is higher than the rural sex ratio in Census 2011.
This includes Tamil Nadu, Kerala and National Capital Territory of Delhi, the report said.
The report said the child population in the country declined by 5 million or almost three per cent between 2001 and 2011.
This is due to the sharp decline of 8.9 million or about seven per cent in the child population in rural areas.
In urban areas, the child population increased by 3.9 million or about 10 per cent.
The improvement in the literacy rate in rural areas is two times than that in urban areas.
The rural-urban literacy gap which was 21.2 percentage points in 2001 has come down to 16.1 percentage points in 2011.
There is more improvement in female literacy than in male literacy in both rural and urban areas, according to the data.
The gender gap in literacy has come down from 24.6 in 2001 to 19.8 in 2011 in rural areas and from 13.4 in 2001 to 9.8 in 2011 in urban areas.