Dr. Y Udaya Chandar
On 11 July 2021, the World Population Day, Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, unveiled his proposed Bill for UP, “UP Population (Control, Stabilisation, and Welfare) Act 2021.” The purpose of the Act is to discourage and prevent UP people from having more than two children. The Act envisages heavy incentives for those having one or two children and hefty penalties for those having more than two children. The Act also contains various provisions on the health and welfare of people; it also has conditions for Uniform Personal laws. He wants to bring in a demographic balance among different communities in the State. The CM invited comments and suggestions from the public on the Bill by 19 July 2021.
The Bill was appreciated by people for whom all the ills in the country are due to our unchecked population growth. They also think that we have reached a stage of population explosion.
There was also severe criticism of the Bill. Their arguments are: We have not yet reached a stage of population explosion; there is no need for such a draconian law when all the Indians are living happily and comfortably; the policy may lead to a rise in foeticide, illegal abortions, infanticide, and skewed sex ratio and in any case the rate of population growth in the country is declining. They also opined that the policy, if implemented, would put the health and well-being of women at risk. They have quoted the Chinese experiment, which is reversed from one-child norm to three-children norm.
These are not the first attempts to control the Indian population. The Central government and the governments of States introduced a plethora of incentives for family planning. The governments offered even cash incentives for vasectomy and tubectomy. But none of these yielded the desired results. There is hope that the present UP Act would succeed because Yogi, a hard task-master, is handling it.
The Assembly elections in UP are due in 2022. The population policy may become a make-or- break issue for BJP. We do not know now how the UP electorate will react to this issue. If BJP wins, the population Act wins. If it loses, that will be the end of the matter. The BJP is drawing on the present short lull on the Act to examine its impact on the coming year’s elections.
The fact is that the Indians want more children because of various factors; many are not satisfied with two children, simply. Most want a son, and they keep trying for it, and in the bargain, produce more children. Even the educated people desire two sons and one daughter. Lately, some educated people with well-paid salaries are limiting the size of their children to one or two. This is because of the sky-rocketing cost of education, a good school is collecting more than two lakh rupees for pre-school admission in a big city.
Size of Our Population and Territory
At the time of our Independence in 1947our population was 361 million, and it was 318.6 million people counted during the 1941 census. The Indian population as of April 2021 is 1392.7 million, as per Wikipedia. In about 20 years, we have added about 400 million mouths, mostly unworthy and unwanted. If we go ahead with the same passion for giving birth to children, we may reach the 200 crore mark by 2050. However, our demographers are confident that our populace will stabilize sometime and not be 200 strong. Many Indians feel that we need not worry about our numbers, and there are no ill effects of this growth. Do they want to wake up when we reach 200 crores?
India has been undergoing land fragmentation of a high order. A farmer with three hectares of land and three sons will distribute his three hectares among his three sons, and each possesses one hectare. See what happens when these sons have to divide their land among their more than one son. Land fragmentation has many ill effects, starting with uneconomical farming.
In 2010-11 India had 117.25 million small (less than 1 hectare) land holdings, and it had come to 125.86 million in 2015-16. Due to fragmentation, the average land per person in a rural household is 0.2 hectares in 2015-16.
Availability of Water
India accounts for 17% of the world’s population and about 4% of the world’s water resources. India experiences average precipitation of 1,170 millimeters (46 in) per year, or about 4,000 cubic kilometers (960 cubic meters) of rains annually or about 1,720 cubic meters (61,000 cu ft) of freshwater per person every year. Some 80% of its area experiences rains of 750 millimeters (30 in) or more a year. However, this rain is not uniform in time or geography.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has suggested 135 liters per capita per day (lpcd) as the benchmark for urban areas. For rural areas, the Jal Jeevan Mission has fixed a minimum service delivery of 55 lpcd, which may be enhanced to a higher level by the States. These quantities are grossly inadequate when compared with world data.
India currently stores only 6% of its annual rainfall or 253 billion cubic meters (8.9×10 cu ft), while the developed nations strategically store 75% of the yearly rainfall in arid river basins. India relies excessively on groundwater resources, which caters for over 50% of the irrigated area with 20 million tube wells installed. About 15% of India’s food is grown using rapidly depleting / mining groundwater resources. The end of the era of massive expansion in groundwater use will demand greater reliance on surface water supply systems.
India is not running out of water, whereas water is running out of India without extracting its full potential benefits. Land-based water reservoirs construction is very costly after meeting the land and property compensation and rehabilitation expenditures. Despite adequate average rainfall in India, there is a large area under fewer water conditions/drought-prone. There are a lot of places where the quality of groundwater is not good. Another issue is the interstate distribution of rivers that serve 90% of India’s territory. It has created several conflicts across the states and to the whole country on water sharing issues.
Out of India’s 3,119 towns and cities, just 209 have partial treatment facilities, and only 8 have full wastewater treatment facilities (WHO). One hundred fourteen cities dump untreated sewage and partially cremated bodies directly into the rivers. The filthy conditions in both urban and rural areas in the country are due to inadequate water availability. India now ranks 133 in the world concerning the amount of water available per person per year.
Poverty in India
India ranks 94th among 107 countries in terms of hunger and is in the ‘severe’ hunger category according to the Global Hunger Index 2020. According to the study, 14% of the population is undernourished. Last year the GHI rank of the country was 102 out of 117 countries. India has around 84 million people living in extreme poverty, which makes up ~6% of its total population as of May 2021. A 2020 study from the World Economic Forum found “Some 220 million Indians sustained on an expenditure level of less than Rs 32/ day – the poverty line for rural India – by the last headcount of the poor in India in 2013”.
According to the revised World Bank methodology, India had 179.6 million people below the new poverty line, and China had 137.6 million. The world had 872.3 million people below the new poverty line on an equivalent basis as of 2013. In other words, while having 17% of the world’s population, India had a 20.6% share of the world’s poor.
India’s employment situation during Covid 19 period, starting with March 2020, is altogether a different phenomenon. So the unemployment situation before Covid 19 is discussed here. India has not been able to lay down parameters to define ‘unemployment.’ In absolute terms, according to the various Indian governments between 1983 and 2005, the number of unemployed persons in India steadily rose from around 7.8 million in 1983 to 12.3 million in 2004-05. The unemployment rate in India had increased from “7.3% in 1999-2000 to 8.3% in 2004-5”, states the World Bank report. While the Indian economy has been shifting from being predominantly agriculture employment-based to one where the employment is a mix of agriculture, manufacturing, and services; the economy has largely seen a “jobless growth” between the 1980s and 2007. The services-based industry has not been “particularly employment-intensive.” The rapid growth of the service sector has not addressed the unemployment and under-employment problems in India – and the job needs of its growing population – between 1983 and 2010. According to the Pew Research Centre, a significant majority of Indians consider the lack of employment opportunities as a “gigantic problem” in the country. “About 18.6 million Indians were jobless, and another 393.7 million worked in poor-quality jobs vulnerable to displacement”, states the Pew report in 2018-19.
The National Sample Survey Office report states that male youth had an unemployment rate of 17.4% and 18.7% in rural and urban areas, while women youth had 13.6% and 27.2%, respectively, in 2017-18. However, the think tank of the Government of India, NITI Aayog, says that these are not official, and the data is not yet verified. The Indian labor force is estimated to be growing by 8 million per annum, but the Indian economy is currently not producing new full-time jobs at this rate.
Hope better sense prevails over all Indians.
Dr. Y Udaya Chandar