Why We Shouldn’t Be Content With India’s Falling Population Growth Rate

Posted by Aniruddha Mukherjee in Society
October 5, 2017

India is the second-most populous country in the world (after China) with a mammoth population of 1.32 billion. We contribute to almost 17% of the planet’s population. That means every sixth person in the world is an Indian. India’s population has quadrupled since independence.

All of this sounds cool, right? But we should also remember that India is the seventh-largest country on the earth. It owns only a little portion of the earth’s surface. Hence, population density is a matter of concern in a rapidly-developing country like India.

According to the latest decennial census report, the average population density of India is 382. This means that on an average, 382 people reside per square kilometre of land. The picture is even worse in Bihar where the population density is 1102, according to the the 2011 census. Union territories like Delhi, Chandigarh, Daman and Diu, Pudduchery, Dadra and Nagar Haveli show even higher figures. Such a high population retards the rate of economic and social development.

In such a context of rising population, six main resources have to face high pressure:

1. Food

2. Land

3. Forests

4. Water

5. Energy

6. Minerals

These six resources are the yardsticks by which a country’s development is measured.  After the 1947 partition, Punjab and Bengal faced a huge population pressure resulting in an increase in the demand for work which weakened the economy in the two provinces. The more the people, the weaker the infrastructure – because people from different parts of the country have different demands.

The government too understood the importance of controlling population. In 1952, India became the first country in the world to initiate a family planning program. But the rural regions of the country remained untouched by this initiative. In 1951, India’s population was 361 million – and within a decade, it had reached 439 million. That meant a decennial growth of more than 70 million.

In that decade, there were aggressive sterilisation campaigns mainly treating men, which have stigmatised family planning ever since.

India’s fertility rate is lower than some neighboring countries, but is significantly higher than Iran’s and China’s. The current fertility rate is 2.3.

In spite of the rising population, experts say that there is no need for a population-controlling law. Assam has already constituted one though. But the experts say that it is completely unnecessary because the population growth rate of India is actually decreasing. They concluded that even a few years ago, people used to have four or five children – but now, subsequent generations will follow the modern and scientific one-child tradition.

They also added that India is currently heading towards its goal of attaining a fertility rate of 2.1 (the replacement level) by 202o. But the goal will be only possible to reach if the literacy scenario of the country improves. In fact, a 1990 study estimated that it would take until 2060 for India to achieve universal literacy, going by the pace of progress back then.

According to Neha Kakkar, a volunteer for non-profit Family Planning Association of India that promotes sexual health and family planning in India, “Teaching poorly educated women in remote communities how to use pills or contraceptives is more expensive than mass sterilisation campaigns.” The government has systematically chosen the cheaper option.

In 2014, in Chhattisgarh, 14 women died and 20 more were put on intensive care, after undergoing surgeries at two government-run sterilization camps. The women were supposed to be paid about ₹1400, for the operation. Back then, local officials in Chhattisgarh said that they had a target of 220,000 sterilisations per year.

Reports and studies in recent years reveal that there is a glaring lack of knowledge regarding contraceptives, their usage and what they do, among Indians, especially women. In 2009, 48% women were using contraceptives in India – a figure which was 35% in 1997.

A group called “Taxpayers’ Association of Bharat” has started a campaign to support a national law to control India’s population growth. The campaign #bharat4populationlaw asks supporters to sign an online petition.


Featured image used for representative purposes only.

Featured image source: Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images