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India’s Growth Story:FAMILY PLANNING MUST, by Dhurajati Mukherjee,21 September 2007 Print E-mail

People And Their Problems

New Delhi, 21 September 2007

India’s Growth Story


By Dhurajati Mukherjee

In a world where high growth and competitiveness has become the order of the day, scarcity of resources, made worse by governance problems and rising population have retarded the development process in India.

The vicious circle of poverty, population explosion and environmental degradation has added to the country’s woes. If the population remains uncontrolled, it would be disastrous for the country’s economy. The growth rate of the economy, which has reached respectable levels in the last two years, may get diluted if the population increase is not stabilized in the coming years.

India has 2.4 per cent of the landmass of the world but it has around 17 per cent of the population and this has been increasing at the rate of 1.9 per cent per annum while that of the world has been moving at 1.4 per cent per annum. It is estimated that there would be 9.2 billion people in the world by the year 2050. According to the UN Commission on Population and Development, India, Pakistan and China along with Indonesia and Nigeria are among five countries that account for almost half the annual growth of 100 million of the world’s population.

Among the developing countries, China has launched commendable and drastic family planning programmes over the last decade. It is estimated that its population will increase from the present 1250 million to approximately 1500 million in the year 2025. On the other hand, India’s record has been far from satisfactory and present indications reveal that the country’s population will cross that of China in the first quarter of this century.

The reasons for India not attaining success in controlling population may be attributed to the following factors: One, backwardness, especially in the BIMARU states like Bihar, where the population growth is very high. Two, inadequate awareness generation and spread of literacy at the grass-root level in some of the remote areas of the country. Three, lack of a common civil code and the Government’s reluctance to impose this fearing backlash from the minority community.

Four, high levels of gender inequality and hardly any initiatives to make women conscious of the need for family planning. Five, superstitious beliefs prevalent among the illiterate and the rural poor (abortion and other birth control measures do not have divine sanction). Six, lack of initiative by the panchayats to spread and implement family planning rigorously.

More. The National Family Planning Health surveys found that women on an average gave birth to 0.7 more children than they actually wanted because of various factors, including non-availability of contraceptive services. In the high population growth States this gap is much higher.

Additionally, it was found that wherever women were socially disadvantaged because of their sex or lack of education and training or oppression or where the patriarchal system made them economically and socially dependent, population control became difficult and the birth rates were higher. On the other hand, the birth rate decreased if the women were educated and autonomy. 

Kerala is a case in point. Boasting of a very high literacy rate there has been a drastic decline in the population growth. Also in most of the North Eastern States, where women are professionally engaged the fertility rate is quite low. In fact, contraceptive application and its long-term impact should be aimed at men rather than women.

Clearly, India’s growth and economic performance may lose its momentum if family planning is not practiced by a majority of the people. Already our natural resources are getting depleted thanks to a population density of around 320 per sq. km. (compared to around 135 per sq. km of China) and it would be virtually impossible for the country to make its presence felt in the international scene if the population growth cannot be controlled.

Moreover, not only would it be difficult to curb food insecurity but also our socio-economic advancement would be jeopardized if the population growth rate is not brought down to around one or 1.25 per cent per annum. As it stands, the foodgrains output growth has lost the race against population increase. True, the scarcity of water resources, the per capita availability of land and the depleting fossil fuels is a world wide trend however, populous countries like India would have to be more cautious in the coming years.

It is encouraging to note that the social infrastructure development with emphasis on health and education has already been initiated. There is an urgent need to inculcate family planning education in a massive way, especially in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and eastern Uttar Pradesh. Needless to say, education is a powerful weapon to combat increase in fertility rate, poverty and unemployment. The panchayats need to be involved and well known personalities from all religious communities have to be mobilized to lead this family planning campaign.

If education spreads among women and the underprivileged sections, the fertility rate would go down as has been the experience in the Third World. There is need to marshaled public-private partnerships to create awareness among the people and their participation in the family planning programme. And simultaneous uplift the condition of the people at the grassroot level through spreading education in the rural areas.

Besides, the Government needs to lay emphasis on infrastructure development like construction of roads, highways and initiatives in the power sector could lead to a transformation of the neglected and impoverished rural scenario. This could help reduce population growth.

In the ultimate analysis, the people need to be educated on the dire consequences of an over populated nation. This would only create problems in the future. Especially in a country with scarce resources and acute poverty. If the southern states of the country can achieve low population growth, why not their northern counterparts? Superstitious beliefs and fundamentalist attitude to life should give way to modern outlook and living. --- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)





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