The lacks of political will, self-seeking politicians and appeasement policy of the Government have made all our efforts to control the explosion, come a cropper.
In the early part of the previous century, our population was quite stable, not for any other reason except a high mortality rate. Indians had large families but the infant mortality rate as well as early death rate was high, leading to a population growth considered negligible. Since the late 40s the birth rate ahs seen a definite negative trend but the mortality rate has also plummeted. The average number children born in marriage better known as fertility rate is 3.4, This when the ideal fertility rate should not be more than 2.1, the rate at which the population simply replaces itself without increasing.
At present estimates this level could be probably reached by 2026 which will be too late, considering the absolute increase in numbers. According to the Census Commissioner, our population growth is hovering around 2 percent per year and must be cut down to 1.5 percent within the next three years that is 2005. But this figure still means an additional 15 million to feed every year rising to 17.5 millions per year by 2016.
The reforms tried all over our country have been a total failure and the lack of political ill is the main reason. This does not appear to be forthcoming at all and the policy of appeasement by self-seekers is more dominant. Since the studies show a huge but unmet demand for contraceptives and the administration is totally moribund, some Non-Government Organizations have taken the lead and are sincerely trying to do their best. However they have limited reach and financial strength to make a significant dent in a 450 million plus population.
Inspite of all our advancements, our population problem and a callous administration has continued to give our country a bad name by starvation deaths. Can anyone imagine people selling off children and dying due to starvation in a country where the Food Corporation of India has stocks of food grains rotting away in millions of tonnes.
If we delve into other factors which are automatically derived from our large population, we find that India has a large majority of people living below extreme poverty level. It was the unenviable record of having more than 300 million people whose poverty level can be appraised by the fact that their earning power is less than what is necessary to buy basic foods – ranging from 0 to Rs. 30 per day.
All these factors do not necessarily need excessive financing, to be eliminated. What they need is a proper policy and the motivation to put the policy in a moving, dynamic format.
The level of illiteracy, the dogma of religious beliefs and the cravings of every family to have a male heir to continue their dynasty are the main factors which have resulted in this problem and needs to be properly tackled at different levels.
Caste and communal politics have added to the woes and a part of the electorate and the minority community has been misguided and misinformed into believing that any effort at birth control were actually directed at them. The result has been that since the 70’s efforts made in this direction and the very idea of family planning has come a total failure.
The economy of the country and levels of poverty are both negative because of these reasons.
A very important problem which affects economic development in any country is the rapid growth of population. With the falling level of death rates, this results in an imbalance between population size, resources and capital. The rate of growth of population has nearly doubled by 1981.
To maintain a rapidly growing population, the percentage requirement of food, clothing , shelter, medicine, schooling etc. all rise. Moreover, rising population imposes greater economic burden and the per capita availability of land and other resources fixed in supply declines. So if it is not brought under control then a time will come when there will be poverty and unemployment everywhere.
In terms of population size, India comes second in position next only to China and supports about one-seventh of world population. The density of Indian population however is much higher on account of its smaller area and the position with regard to Indian population has assumed serious or more aptly alarming proportion in the last few decades. It is obvious that there is no fixed optimum population figure for all times to come. The measure is an ever changing one in an economy which has a rate of net saving and in which levels of land, fertility, mineral resources and production technologies keep changing. Factors like education and training of labor force, the norms relating to working hours per day and working days per year, the seasonality of economic activities, health and nutrition standard also contribute their share in determining the size of optimum population.
An overpopulated underdeveloped country faced with scarcity of land and capital suffers from the problem of providing education, medical treatment, employment etc. Unemployment is a social evil which leads to a wastage of human resources that could have been put to producing use. The potentials of development have not been properly exploited so the bulk of population lives in misery.
Under the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) countries are ranked on the basis of human development index (HDI). It is very shocking and distressing to note that India has been ranked 135 whereas China stands at 99.
In actual practice it is difficult to estimate the size of optimum population of a country. An overpopulated country like India is characterized by high population density, widespread poverty, unemployment and a low per capita income. An under populated country on the other hand will have a perpetual shortage of labor.
Other causes of overpopulation are the factors affecting death rates which include health facilities in which the authorities are able to control killer diseases and epidemics. he invention of low cost and effective drugs which have resulted in the reduction in famine and illness and reduced the death rate itself. It means that people live longer and add to existing population. Eradication of famine in which various relief programmes against flood droughts and other natural calamities have averted starvation deaths by ensuring an improvement in total food supply and its distribution.
Spread of knowledge about the nutritional requirements of our body. In addition to calorie intake coupled with better availability of relevant foods, minerals and vitamins in medicinal form has helped the people in fighting diseases and death.
Factors Affecting Birth Rate
Improvement in health of would-be mother and a fall in deaths during confinement have enhanced the child bearing capacity of females in this age group. Similarly a higher survival rate of infants and children has meant a larger addition to population adding to more births.
With the improvement in medical facilities, the percentage of infant mortality and delivery deaths have considerably reduced but we must also take into consideration the inferior physique with such early births result in both for the child and the mother.
Together with this, lack of education and the craving for a male heir result in more children inconsiderate of the effects they have on the health of the mother. Abortion has been legalized but it has resulted in rampant misuse. Ultra Sound machines are capable of determining the sex of the child and female foetuses are being aborted.
To control the population growth, India should enforce and adopt the one child per family norm as implemented in China. Families having more children should be penalized in some manner which are exemplary by levying some tax or taking away the opportunities of government service of benefits which are guaranteed by our Constitution.
These sounds like harsh measures but our citizens are generally lax and only setup and take notice when the penalty is imposed.
Everyone remembers the emergency promulgated by Indira Gandhi. For once the government machinery worked like a well oiled machine, every job got done on time and rules were followed in toto. Leaving aside the negative aspects, a few corrupt politicians to their allotted work on time, the common man was happy and it was pleasant surprise for them, it was during this period that sterilization was adopted.
Such drastic measures are called for now let us not be foolish enough to consider this runaway horrendous problem anything less than an ‘Emergency’.