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What India Seeks on World Population Day


– Dr Seema Singh

The world population is growing by approximately 74 million people a year, but the 20th century saw the biggest increase in the world’s population in human history. It is time to put the pedal down on the explosion of population growth as soon as possible.

Human beings are the guardians of the Mother Earth and not the owner. Without realizing this fact, uncontrolled human activities have caused irreparable damage to Mother Earth and her ecology. Earth has a limited resources and capacity to serve its children but due to increasing population and industrialization, the planet now is in the middle of its 6th mass extinction of plants and animals.  At present, the global population is estimated at around 7 billion, which will cross the line of 9.7 billion by the end of 2050. The World Population Prospects 2019 highlights that the planet will have to sustain around 11 billion population by the end of this century. Scientists have yet to determine that how much human-carrying capacity Earth has conclusively, but the data is reflecting that we have exploited earth much beyond the permissible limit and consumed much more natural resources in last 50 years than the whole of humanity consumed earlier.  The credit of earth devastation primarily goes to industrial revolution and consumerism, which changed the dynamics of the world and divided the world into developed, developing and underdeveloped countries. Globally improvised health sector and agriculture sector also seen a revolution in terms of increased life expectancy. Ongoing advancements in science and medicine revolutionized the mortality rate of children and expanded childbearing age, which resulted into population growth across the globe.  The pattern of distribution of the population is not uniform and countries like Brazil, China and India are most populated containing more than 1/3 of the world’s population. The favourable life conditions are still present in China and India and posing them the threat of severe population explosion.

World Population Day
The world population is growing by approximately 74 million people a year, but the 20th century saw the biggest increase in the world’s population in human history.  Increasing population shook the consciousness of the world. On July 11, 1987, when world population crossed the limit of 5 billion, nations started realizing the severity and in 1989, the Governing Council of the UN Development Programme recommended that July 11 be observed by the international community as “World Population Day”. The purpose of this day is to draw the attention of the masses on the urgency of population control and to encourage them to work together to re-establish harmony and unity with the natural environment.  This year “World Population Day” calls for global attention to the unfinished business of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, to recognize reproductive health and gender equality, essential for achieving the target of sustainable development.

Why India Needs Population Control  
Though India is the second-largest populous country (1.35billion), it is projected that by 2024, India will surpass China as the most populated country in the world. Furthermore, India’s population is expected to grow to 1.8 billion before stabilizing around the middle of this century, if sufficient measures are taken.  The biggest challenge for India is its unpreparedness to accommodate such a huge population. India is already facing a crisis of drinking water, sewage treatment, inadequate rainfall, rapid depletion of natural resources, extinction of many plant and animal species, increased level of life-threatening pollution, high infant and child mortality rate and hunger due to extreme poverty.  Though India has a lengthy history of explicit population policy which was started in a modest way in 1950, but could not be achieved very effectively even in 21st century. The National Population Policy adopted in 1976 reflected the growing consensus among policymakers that family planning would enjoy only limited success unless it was part of an integrated program aimed at improving the general welfare of the population. Despite all efforts in promoting family planning, the 1991 census results showed that India continued to have one of the most rapidly growing population in the world.  Studies have revealed the unequal distribution of the fruits of development and the increasing economic disparity was the most important reason for unevenly growing population. Poverty is one of the most important reasons for this population increase in India. As per studies, the people, who have to struggle to make two ends meet produce more children than economically well off citizens.  

India Says NO to More Population  
India is already struggling with the existing population to provide basic needs. Population explosion is the root cause of the pitiable condition of our International Ranking, which is 103rd in the Global Hunger Index, 168th in Literacy Rate, 133rd in World Happiness Index, 125th in Gender Discrimination, 124th in Minimum Pay, 42nd in Employment Rate, 66th in Rule of Law Index, 43rd in Quality of Life Index, 51st in Financial Development Index, 177th in Environment Performance Index, 139th in GDP Per Capita.  The plight of India is not this much. Still, tens of millions of people remain destitute and thousands of farmers commit suicide each year. Nearly 40 per cent of Indian children under 5 are short for their age under malnutrition. 21.9% of the Indian population lived below the national poverty line in 2011.  India is a country with 65% population below the age of 35. Over the coming two decades, the working-age population is projected to increase by more than 200 million. Over 30% of Indians aged 15 to 30 years are neither in employment nor in education and training. If this trend continues, then India is going to face a severe unemployment issue.  The population migration from rural to urban areas is another threat. The urban population growth of 31.8 % during 2001–2011 stands in stark contrast to the simultaneous national population growth of 17.6 % (Census of India 2011).This migration will create a severe crisis in solid waste management and wastewater treatment.  Increasing population will create several other social problems like increasing crimes overcrowding, traffic congestions and pollution in big cities.The rising population will sharply reduce per capita availability of land and fragmentation of holdings.  Population explosion will lead to serious environmental degradation, deforestation and encroachment of humans in the natural habitat of animals. Briefly speaking, population explosion hinders the economic development and quality life of human beings and abovementioned data reveal the dire need of population control for dignified life existence.  What is the solution?  Though India was a pioneer in family planning, we are still far behind the goal. A discussion is going on regarding the mechanism of population control. A group is demanding to adopt China’sone child policy which was withdrawn in 2015 for massive female foeticide, mainly for favouring son and facing worst global sex ratio, i.e. 122:100, in addition to increasing ageing population. Implementation of this policy in India may give more disastrous result in terms of female foeticide.  In 1975, then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the Emergency tried to implement population policy strictly and roughly, 8 million men were sterilised, but this did little to decline India’s population growth.  So what measure should be adopted by democratic India to control its population?  India is already working on certain fronts which should be pushed more aggressively like two-child policy, advocating child spacing, informing women and men about the range and availability of contraceptive methods, promoting small family size, and presenting sterilization in a more humane light.  Proper government policies on means of education, entertainment and employment should be increased. Now it is also high time to prevent unchecked migration of the population in urban areas. Besides birth control accelerating growth of the economy can be instrumental in controlling the increasing population. Improvised public health services and women empowerment can be other effective means of population control.  Besides abovementioned methods now we need to think about something more constructive, effective and unconventional method to population check like increasing age of marriage to reduce the span of productivity, constitution of National Planning Commission for population control to aggressively push the agenda of population control and to implement Justice Venkatachaliah Commission (2002) report to amend the constitution to add Art 47A to formalise the population control law.  A state like Haryana has taken exemplary steps to discourage increasing population by disqualifying individuals having more than two children from contesting elections to local bodies. Two Child Norm, should be set as a uniform criterion for government jobs, aids and subsidies, and may withdraw statutory rights viz. right to vote, right to contest, right to property, right to free shelter, right to free legal aid etc. from those who are violating this. Now a uniform system of population control like this should be strategies and applied to create a national matrix in the pressing need of the hour.  For awareness second Sunday of every month should be celebrated as ‘Population Control Day’ and free birth control tool kits should be provided to EWS and BPL families. Couples should be encouraged to adopt a child instead of producing them. Some incentive should be delivered in terms of money to those who are adopting population policy.  

Thus, though the growth rate of the population has been declined in comparison to 90s, still India is under population stress. This “World Population Day” every citizen should take a resolution to contribute to population control movement so that India could reap the benefits of its demographic dividend in the future.

 (Author is Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Delhi University)

Courtesy: Organiser


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