One pleasant winter evening, the kind where one doesn’t need to cover oneself from head to toe and there are no worries of slipping on the ice and breaking ones bones among other things. I was strolling with a group of people I recently met and knew little about. Amongst various topics, ranging from weather to latest movies came up one that bothers me and to an extent makes me nervous… Our population. The guy casually said”We are no longer worried about this, in fact we are happy that it is growing the way it is “. I was taken aback for a moment…wondering how can one think like that, but then I am practicing to learn to deal with less informed people who happen to think that they are well versed on the subject they are talking about, with grace and poise. It is not working very well for me ….I didn’t say anything then but the incident did make me think about the divided consensus on this topic and when will this issue be acknowledged and dealt with all seriousness it deserves.
We are a country of 1.25 billion people. Is it a demographic disaster or a demographic dividend as argued by many? One in every 6 person in the world is an Indian. These intimidating figures if not checked will grow even worse in the coming decades. We will surpass China in the next 2 decades with a total of 2.4 Billion people. That being said , is it necessarily a bad thing? Half our population is comprised of youth, people under 25 years of age, which is great for now as it is helping us improve our economy with a rising share of people in working class population. But how will this picture look, let’s say after 2 decades? Not the best, I would say. With already shrinking resources, this the last thing that could happen to us.
It is high time our politicians get their act together and formulate some norm to address this situation. I know, it is a touchy subject for them especially after what happened when Mrs. Gandhi tried to impose forced population control and ended up loosing the following elections. Not to mention, they themselves have up to 9 children in their households. So, we clearly know that any coercive methods simply won’t work for us. If we employ 2 child policy for all the states, it is most likely to be misused and will be least effective. Also, we know countries like China have seriously skewed sex ratios after employing one child rule along with serious human rights violations. Reasons why people feel the need to have more than 2 children in our country always baffles me. Has it something to do with education? Sadly no, the research shows that there is no correlation between education and the number of children a person has . Some of the highly educated people I know have more than 2 children. The need to have a male child plays a major part here. In states like UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh where, the population growth is amongst the highest, majority of the women don’t want another child after having 2 children. But it happens anyway. Blame it on lack of awareness about contraception or access to a medical facility. No wonder, maternity fatality rate in India is amongst the highest in the world.
So, is there a pragmatic approach that can solve this imminent threat we are facing? Should there be some incentives involved? Countries like Russia, France and Germany give incentives to their citizens in order to increase population, it hasn’t worked for them so far. Incorporating sex education in our school syllabuses will certainly help. More importantly women should play a major role in the decision making process which will only come by education. We probably need more reservations in schools and colleges for women than in parliament. Another important aspect is making a uniform policy where there is an actual separation between religion and state. De-stigmatization of sex is necessary. It won’t hurt to increase the age of marriage for women to be 21 years of age and to enforce this.
I think all our problems stem from this single problem. We need to acknowledge this and try to stabilize our population in such a way that we have better quality of life, more resources and above all no body gets hurt in the process.