Population explosion

Shiban Khaibri

In India the population is expected to supersede that of China’s by the year 2030 if the figures of the all India census as on March 2011 are to be believed to be over 1.21 billion. The decadal growth has been registered as at 17.64%. With the current fertility rate of 2.8% which by all accounts is alarmingly the highest, the goal of 2.1%  set to be achieved by 2010 could not become a reality as planned in the year 2000, vide  country’s  new national population policy, to stem the growth of the country’s rising population. It is worth noting with the quantum of  due concern that we were just 36 crores in 1950  followed by  44, 55, 69, 85, 100 and 118 crores in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010 respectively.  Just a comparison with Britain reveals that the population during the same period there has remained more or less inelastic oscillating between 5 crores to 5.9 crores. A cause of more concern is that while we have only 2.4% of the earth’s surface at our use, we are responsible for a whooping 17.5% of the total population on the earth.

In the din of political manoeuverings of different hues and political leadership interested in and making preparations for elections after elections employing all the crafts of political biz, the governments at the centre and states in India appear to have no time to look into and address this devouring problem with all seriousness required.       Of late, it is felt that there is no political will with the government to treat the population explosion as national problem requiring utmost priority on an even pace and increasing attention. Very serious issues confronting this country topping which is the problem of increasing population appears to be hostage to patch working and stereo type ad-hoc handling. Knowing fully that for any achievement worth the name in registering an annual growth rate of less than 1% entails employing both short term and long term measures; we are in a quagmire as to how it could be possible. Various humps and difficulties, most of them avoidable, are allowed to come in the way. The power of population, said Malthus, is “indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistently for man. Population, when unchecked increased in geometrical ratio.” It is precisely what appears to have operated in Indian conditions as compared, for example with the figures of population as of 1950. What is it that despite India being the first among a few countries to realize the importance of limiting the families and go in for family planning, we have not made an impact and made family planning not an issue of national importance. Perhaps still we have not brought enough awareness in the masses that family planning was an in- alienated part and parcel of a disciplined, wise and prudent domesticity. The fact that strict family planning cannot clash with any sexual morality is a view to be appraised positively with intent to bring about a desired limit in a family.

The view that a mother should have children only as far as her health and the financial ability warrants, buttresses the importance of limiting a family. Astronomical growth rate of our population is not only cutting at the roots of the country’s economic growth but it also undermines the growth of the individual citizens. We have to feed ever increasing number of people, creating and giving more jobs, educational, medical cum health facilities and more importantly, provide houses to live in. What then should be a model policy, an effective mechanism, and a result oriented strategy to have a dent in the pursuit of taking over this gigantic and complicated problem? We have before us the Kerala model.   A commission was constituted by the Kerala government under V. R. Krishna Iyer, a former Judge of the Supreme Court to look into and submit recommendations on the rights and welfare of the children and women. In its report submitted in October 2011 to the state government, he suggested restrictions of entitlement to state grants to only those who adopt two child norms. It had also suggested that a sum of Rs. 50000 should be paid to women from BPL category that marry after the age of 19 and have their first child only after attaining the age of 20 years.

It sounds strange that Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare termed the recommendations and hence the “Kerala Model” as ridiculous saying that states cannot provide facilities on the basis of how many children a family has. Kerala government has many achievements to its credit even otherwise in the absence of this innovative and much required model and as per Kerala Women’s Code Bill 2011, any person /any social or religious organization involved in campaigning against family planning and population control shall have to pay a fine of Rs. 10000 or serve a jail term of three months. Interestingly, the report says that no individual or institution shall use religion, region, sect or caste for bearing more than two children.

In China the population problem is identified as national problem due to which that country enforced the “one child norm”  way back in 1978 which resulted in preventing as many as 400 million births which otherwise would have been a huge burden on a country bursting at its seams. Population growth there has gone down from 1.34 in 1978 to 0.52% in 2010. They, however, allow having a second child if the first one is born a girl. We may not go the China way or follow strictly even Kerala model but decidedly, we have to devise a plan that would really show the results. “Hum doo, hamarey doo”, a failed solution has to be revived and enforced with advices, allurements, and even enactments. We must learn from our own Kerala state as to how it has achieved a low rate of population growth during the last decade which is less than half of the country’s as a whole. Kerala model is the ideal model which boasts of high literacy rate, high life expectancy and a lower rate of infant mortality. The standard of living is high, better health care and access to education are the hall marks of the policies adopted by the successive state governments there.

It is worth noting that in an Islamic country like Iran, population control is effective. They encourage women to have a gap of 3 to 4 years between children and discourage child bearing below 18 years and above 35 years.  Now, there all these things cannot be achieved without adopting modern techniques of family planning, maternity leave and benefits after 3 children are reported to be intensely restricted.

It is the only country in the world where a modern contraceptive class is mandatory for men and women before a marriage certificate is issued. It is unfortunate that certain minority religious groups are against the implementation of strict family planning norms in India, terming them non religious which needs to be reviewed and discouraged in the interest of the country whose natural resources are under tremendous pressures. U.P; Bihar, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh  and Tamil Nadu, the six toppers in population growth, need to seriously devise means and ways on sustainable levels to arrest the high growth in population before it is too late.

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