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Remembering Malthusian Theory of Population amidst Global Pandemic of Covid-19

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Amidst, the catastrophe of Covid – 19, I am reminded of a Theory of Population propounded by Thomas Robert Malthus. The theory is famously known as Malthusian Theory of Population. Malthus in 1798 wrote this theory in his book An Essay on the Principle of Population. The theory explains that population grows in terms of geometric progression while food production grows in arithmetic progression. In simple terms,

  • geometric progression implies growth in terms of a common multiple. Example: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 etc, where 2 is the common multiple.
  • arithmetic progression implies growth in terms of a common addend.   Example: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 etc where 2 is the common additive.

From the above, we can infer that the same number ‘2’ is making a big difference when it is working as a multiple, rather than a addend. Now, this difference is witnessed between the population growth and the growth in the food supply. This leads to destabilization of the relation between food supply and growing population. Malthus, does not stop here. He continues to say that nature has its own mechanism of restoring equilibrium through checking the population growth. These are called as positive checks. These include: wars, epidemics, famines, and other natural calamities. Such positive checks control the growth of population and stabilize the relation between food supply and population. In order to avoid these positive checks, Malthus recommends some preventive checks which must be adopted by man to control the population. These preventive checks will further, help in containing the positive checks themselves. This theory looks very much relevant today, as the population of the world has reached its greatest number, that is 7.8 billions. Due to increased economic prosperity, most of the people are not following population control measures. It is not that only uneducated and poor sections of the world are doing this. Even highly educated people are going for more children as they think they can afford to have more kids due to their prosperous life. This brings back to the current Global crisis of Covid -19. UNO has declared it as a global pandemic, a word that is rarely used. Now, can this be called as a positive check that has been refered to by Malthus. Yes, the world is going through a positive check which is difficult to control as man has not taken enough measures to put the preventive checks. High populations cause this positive check even more severe. Asia and Europe have more density of population (96.4 and 72.9 per square kilometre).  and therefore controlling Covid-19 will be an enormous task. How and where exactly the Corona virus infected the humans is not yet confirmed. But, Wuhan’s illegal live animal market has been one of the major contributor to this. Now, we are coming to what Malthus said, food. China, in order to support the growing populations largely depends on the sea food. And because, there is huge demand for sea food in the market, it calls for illegal trade. Obviously, it implies that safety measures are not put into practice in producing this sea food. The Middle East and Europe are the most overpopulated regions of the world. Though China and India are highly populated, their geographic areas makes them less denser than Europe and Middle East. However, the density of urban population is another important feature to be noted. Outbreak of any epidemic is difficult to be controlled in highly dense urban areas. Again Asian and European cities stand ahead. It is pertinent to note that Covid – 19 cases are more in the densely populated areas of the world. A world map of Covid – 19 cases and density of population coincide. This is not a mere coincidence but the tragic reality. And here lies the significance of Malthusian Theory of Population.

The preventive checks that man should take up are not only confined to control of population through family planning but also, control of population density. Only then can positive checks be taken care of. This brings in lot of issues like balanced regional development, control of migration from rural to urban areas, expanding cities and bringing up smart cities. All these should be given priority in development studies. Malthusian Theory of Population must remain the backdrop of such studies and the recommended policies.  


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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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