Overpopulation in India: Problems and Solution Approach?

First published on: 2019-12-06 Socio-Economic Development

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi as talked about the need to tackle population explosion in India Overpopulation in India

What was till now an issue of gigantic proportions yet hushed up under the carpet has come to the fore again. Prime Minster Narendra Modi on the occasion of India’s independence spoke in no uncertain words the need to tackle India’s population explosion. Although, India has the world’s first population policy in place, something like compulsory enforcement could never have been imagined but we should be prepared for it now.

Population Regulation Bill, 2019

In July 2019, a private members bill, titled ‘Population Regulation Bill, 2019’, was introduced by BJP MP Rakesh Sinha. It calls for punitive action against people with more than two living children and making them devoid of all government services. The private member bill aims at disqualification from being an elected representative, denial of financial benefits and reduction in benefits under the Public Distribution System (PDS) for people having more than two children. The bill also suggests that government employees should give an undertaking that they will not procreate more than two children.

Population Figures

The figures on population are scary.

  • India’s current population is over 1.3 billion. According to UN projections, India will leave China behind in population by 2027.
  • Even as India is expected to reduce its birth rates to replacement fertility levels, its population will continue to grow at a rate of 22.5 per cent.
  • In the next 32 years, there will be about 300 million more Indians.
  • This is certainly going to overstretch the health care and resources burden.
  • The elderly population currently at 6% will increase to 13% by 2050.
  • By 2050, the younger generation will account for about 19% of the population.
  • This demographic shift will further overstretch the burden of health care.

Why Population Remains a Concern when Growths are Declining?

If you look at the figures, there are clear evidences to conclude that India’s population growth is declining. According to the United Nations `World Population Prospects 2019’ report released in June this year, the new projections for India are the lowest since the United Nations began these forecasts. The reason is the sharp decline in India’s population growth rates over 10 years from 2001 to 2011. According to Census 2011, the growth rate of population has declined from 21.5% during 1991-2001 to 17.7% during 2001-2011, across all religious groups.

Here are some reasons why despite the decline population is a matter of concern.

  • It will overstretch India’s social and economic resources.
  • India's growing population was once a dividend it expected to reap benefit from, but possibly not anymore.

The population increase will concomitantly increase human activities:

  • High water use
  • Damming of rivers
  • Cropland extension
  • Increase in the use of fertilizers and irrigation
  • Loss of forest
  • Sharp rise in use of oil. Coal, gas and subsequent increase in the levels of carbon di oxide, methane, and other green house gases.

The population increase will further complicate economic, social, environmental and health issues. It will prove hazardous to the health of the mother with frequent pregnancies without a gap leading to:

  • Increased maternal and infant mortality rates
  • Lowered nutrition and various diseases among women
  • Poverty
  • Environmental degradation

Points To Remember

    • India continues to witness a social and gender bias in terms of family planning
    • there is a high unmet need for family planning
    • As per the NFHS- 4, women do not want to have more than two children
    • Social biases have resulted in addition extra population for India
    • In July 2019, a private members bill, titled ‘Population Regulation Bill, 2019’, was introduced

How Social Biases Impact Population

Social biases have resulted in addition extra population for India. According to The Economic Survey 2018, son meta preference has resulted in 21 million unwanted girls in India. Son meta preference means the desire to have male child. In other words, gender preference is resulting in population explosion in India in addition to the malpractice of female feticide and in some cases even infanticide.

What should be the Approach to Solution?

It is surprising that despite awareness about contraceptives, according to a report, in 2017 more than half of the Indians in the reproductive age did not make use of contraceptives. With an effective application of contraceptives, the growth in population can be sharply curtailed.

Among the several family planning methods, it is also surprising that the most popular one in India little utilized – Sterilization. Many family planning initiatives focus on sterilization, especially of women. In the national family planning budget sterilization accounts for 85% budgetary allocation in place of contraceptives, birth control, and hormonal injections. Modi has rightly noted it is vital to promote and expand their access even from the context of public health.

Social and Gender Bias

India continues to witness a social and gender bias in terms of family planning. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 4-(2015-16) data, 99% of married women and men age 15-49 know at least one method of contraception. However, female sterilization as indicated above remains the most popular modern contraceptive method.

It is not the Women's Responsibility Only

We must start by making people use the available contraception methods, which, in view of our social bias, tilts towards women. The mindset of most of the people, including the educated ones, is that family planning is the responsibility of a woman. Social moves like educating girls will empower women to take informed decisions about her body and life, as well as that of the child. Curbing under-age marriage and teenage pregnancy will also help in checking the birth rate.

Give Women More Choices

As per the NFHS- 4, the wanted fertility rate in the country is 1.8, which means that women do not want to have more than two children. On the other hand, there is a high unmet need for family planning – an estimated 30 million currently married women in the age group 15-49 years and 10 million young women in the age group 15-24 years wish to delay or avoid pregnancy but do not have access to contraceptives for various reasons.

Expanding the Basket of Contrceptive Method

In view of the above, there is a much greater need for expanding the basket of contraceptive choices, with specific focus on spacing methods, to match the needs of a large young population. Budgetary allocations and spending on family planning have to be raised, especially to provide birth spacing methods, adequately train health workers, ensure quality of service delivery and invest in behaviour change communication.

Way Forward

The government must take a holistic, multidimensional approach to spread awareness by involving medical options such as the importance of family planning to sterilization means to social measures such as improving the number of educated girl.

In conclusion, it must be admitted that we must understand that it is in the interest of the nation and the individual to control population. Development and prosperity begin only when individuals are healthy and resourceful. Government alone cannot solve the problem and hence everyone has to contribute. 

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Tags: Overpopulation in India, Population growth in India, Two-child policy, Population explosion, Population Policy, Population Regulation Bill 2019, Son meta preference

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