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“A Billion is Enough: India’s Population Problem – A WAY OUT”

“A Billion is Enough: India’s Population Problem – A WAY OUT” – by Ashok Gupta
Poverty, deprivation, illiteracy, disease and distress are all an outcome of population growth that is disproportionate to the growth of productive resources in India.

Number of people below the poverty line in 1997 was equal to the total population of India in 1947.

Our population problem remains as it was 50 years ago. Rather, it has gone worse both in quantitative and qualitative terms. Qualitative in the sense that those families, which can afford to provide good education and health, are controlling the births and those with no or poor wherewithal are producing children without any check, thoughtlessly, Therefore, the problem needs to be addressed in some innovative and meaningful manner.

There is plethora of projects and programmes in the form of centrally sponsored schemes and state schemes directed at poverty alleviation, education, health provision, housing and food nutrition etc., which have not delivered the benifits as desired or expected. Investment on these programmes has yieled results much below the potential.

India is not only over-populated, but over-population is concentrated in poor/illiterate sections of society, who primarily reside in rural areas. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of poor classes is 3.70 against 2.31 of the rich classes. The analysis also discloses that high TFR amongst the poor/illiterate persons does not flow from their own volition. These classes desire 2.90 children per couple. But due to lack of facilities and motivation, their actual TFR stands at 3.70, almost one child per couple more than their desire.

Capabilities of the poorer classes could have also been developed by intergrating family planning programme with removal of poverty and illiteracy. Population explosion and poverty are inter-dependent problems.

The population is increasing and concentrating in poor/illiterate families, who primarily reside in rural India. This phenomenon has adverse implications in social, economic and political areas in many different ways. For example, while the literate and informed electorate will help in deepening and widening of the democracy, the same cannot be expected from the poor/illiterate constituents. They cannot be expected to return mature, honest and visionary political leadership, which determines the fate of the country. In demoracy heads are counted, not weighed as Aristotle puts it. Therefore, the challenge before us is not only that of quantity but also of the quality of the population.

Poor and illiterate population is primarily concentrated in four major states
Madhya Pradesh – Poor 37.43%, literacy 64.11%
Orissa – Poor 47.15%, literacy 63.61%
Uttar Pradesh – Poor 31.15%, literacy 57.36%
Bihar – Poor 42.60%, literacy 47.53%

Lack of employment opportunities in UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, MP and many other states has led to large-scale migration of people within the country itself. This unending race of unfed, unclothed and illitrate people to other areas of relative prosperity, especially the metropolitan cities, has not only altered the demographic pattern but has also severely strained infrastructural facilities. Migration of the cream of our society to greener pastures in developed countries, leading to large-scale brain drain, is also required to be seen in this context.

Rapidly growing population has adversely affected the Indian political and social scene and led to the abandoning of values in the public as well as the private sphere. When survival becomes the primary goal, all other values are subordinated to this instinct. Passage to the soul, they say, is through stomach. In the wake of limited and finite resources and opportunities, people who wield the power to distribute limited economic resources are being chased by too many seeks, tempting the former to indulge in nepotism, favoritism and corruption. The seekers, in orders to outsmart and outmanoeuvre one another, resort to sycophancy and graft. In the process both the distributors and the seekers get dehumaized and adopt negative social values.

Thus, India, if it opts for indifference towards its population problem will do so at its own risk & responsibility.

The surge in population combined with increase of consumerism has pushed the exploitation of natural resources beyond permissible limits. Fast increasing population demands more infrastructure, more hours, food, clothing, fuel wood and water etc. To meet this ever-rising demand, pressure is increasing on forests, water and land resources. In the process, we are triggering the extinction of plant and animal species, irreversibly harming the bio-diversity. The disastrous consequence of the demands made by our growing population on our natural resources, habitat and bio-sphere is also evident from the rapidly increasing pollution and other forms of deterioration that we notice all around.

There is extreme pressure on land, forests, and rivers as they are mercilessly exploited to cater to the ever-increasing needs of growing population. All systems for the maintenance of law and order, imparting justice and providing civic amenities, are buckling under the pressure.

Forest are worst hit. It is regrettable that India has only 23% of its area covered by forests against 50% a centuary ago and against the minimum of 33% prescribed by the National Forest Policy 1952.

Our land, water, mineral and technological resources are in no way equal to the level of our population. India has 16.8% of world’s population but only 2.42% of the land area, 4% of water resources, 1.4% of world coal reserves, less than 1% of world oil reserves.

The analysis reveals that the burgeoning population in India, without increase in resources, is against the fundamental law of nature and has potential of catastrophe. It demonstrates that if population growth continues unhindered, food and water supply would be affected adversely. Poverty and inequality are bound to increase. Environment would get further degraded, leading to droughts, floods and famines. It convincingly reveals that we could end up relapsing into stage-I of the demographic transition, instead of moving forward to stage-III of demographic transition. This will mean a step into a dark era rather than moving forward into the bright new millennium. The analysis depicts that in such a scenario, social fabric could crumble and the nation could disintegrate. We could even lose political sovereignty.

Basic cause of over-population.
The examination reveals that before 1921 there was almost free play between the creative and destructive powers of Nature, without any significant human intervention. Till this period, both birth and death rates were very high, keeping population growth rate rather low. India at that time was in the first stage of demogrphic transition. The scenario changed after 1921. The invention of new and curative medicines and their mass application, expansion of medical and education facilities, and improvement in the supply of clean drinking water helped to bring down the death rate from 48.6 in 1911-1920 to 8.7 in 1999. A high order of political commitment was shown to reduce the death rate. Unfortunately, on the other hand, our political leaders did not control the creative powers of ‘Nature’ with the same commitment due to fear of losing votes. Therefore, the birth rate did not come down in equal measure.

  1. February 24, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Primary School education is the foundation of all, where we are failing.
    Population can be ASSETS also and can be LIABILITIES also.
    How we can educate and train students with employable skills is important.

  2. January 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Interesting piece.

    • June 9, 2011 at 11:35 am

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  3. June 22, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Congratulations to Ashok Gupta for a very well written blog. There is another aspect to population explosion which has been studied and publicized in a newspaper report in TOI of 21st June’10. The ecological fallout at the global level is being predicted to be as serious as leading to human extinction in a another 100 years. I had written a thread in http://www.itimes.com under Sensitive Indians group based on this newspaper report and was quite amused at the luke warm response the information generated to the extent of even triggering ridicule. We just do not seem to understand the problem despite traveling hanging out of trains, waiting forever in queues, struggling for admissions in colleges, power shortages, ever dwindling amenities, runaway inflation due to commodity demands being always higher than supplies, labor exploitation due to manpower supply being more than demand etc. etc. Ironically, it is not even the illiterate whose power of analysis could be excused, but the computer literate who come across as above.

  4. Sonali
    April 8, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Population increase is at the root of many problems that we are faced with. Unfortunately, this is an issue that no political party is willing to address. The socially and religiously sanctioned need for a boy child is one of the contributing factors that lead to the increase in family size. The fall out of this is the increasing rate of female feticide, killing of the girl child at infancy and the rejection of the mother (with disastrous consequences at times) for her inability to give birth to a male child.

    A few years ago we completed a research on women’s empowerment in a developing city of Andhra Pradesh, surveying a total of 1080 women, in the age group of 18-50 years, with education ranging from 7th std to PhD. 49% of the women surveyed stated that the woman was responsible for the birth of a male child. This gross misinformation on the biological basis of sex determination may be one of the major reasons why women are discriminated against for not giving birth to a male child.

    Further,until there is a change in the socio-religious need for a male child, the situation is not going to change. Families will continue striving for a male child, in the process having large families and/or disregard all moral and ethical values and continue murdering the female.

    Ironical, considering we pride ourselves for our moral values (holding every other nation/culture in the world immoral) and we take great pride in our value of worshiping female deities!

    We have to bring back population control in the forefront of our social consciousness. A tame “hum do humare do” campaign is useless.

  5. Babumohanan
    January 28, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    One reason why many western companies choose India as their IT destination is that India is a large country with a big population to support their growing needs. So we need not see always population as a negative thing. At the same time it is true that we need to educate the people about the relationship between having too many children and the poverty.

  6. January 6, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    I disagree with the quantity of the population being the problem. The issue could also be found in the attraction that bigger cities have to the rural countryside. The inland country does not supply enough work for people to stay there.

    You can not speak about over-population for India as a whole because there is space enough. The fact is that some cities are over populated !

    • Pravin
      February 15, 2010 at 5:21 am

      ralph, the first step I think is to acknowledge the facts, and if there is an issue and then we need to take steps to resolve it.

      India’s current population in no way matches it’s resources per the studies conducted.

      During Independence India’s population was around 350 million and now we have over 350 million people living under the poverty line with a total population of around 1.15 billion.

      India has the lowest ratio of open space to people in the world – a mere 4 acres per 1,000 of population, compared to the global benchmark of 12 acres. In Mumbai, this falls to a paltry 0.2 acres, and after accounting for slums, it diminishes to a measly 0.03 acres.

  7. January 3, 2010 at 12:16 am

    Wow, I didn’t know about that till now. Thankz.

  1. January 2, 2011 at 3:30 pm

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