R.D. Bhardwaj “Noorpuri”
Normally, growth is a word which brings cheers and smiles on the faces of people as it also brings with it progress and prosperity. But population growth just does the opposite, as it carries plenty of problems with it rather than providing solutions to the millions of people suffering from many kinds of wants in India. This is exactly what the Census Report of 2011 has done to the thinking minds, as our population has crossed 121 crores (which is around 17.64 % of people living on this planet), very closely following the most populous nation on the globe i.e. China with a highest population of 134 crores. The second aspect which has surfaced after this latest census exercise is that the gap between India and China is narrowing down year after year, to a frightening level, as China has drastically reduced its population growth to just 0.58% per year as against still burgeoning population growth rate of India, much higher at 1.76%.
Another disturbing study published in The Lancet medical journal has found that an average of 2.60 million stillbirths occurred every year in the world between 1995 and 2009, out of which 23.2% were from India (the highest for any nation, and more than half of them could be saved by better maternal and obstetric care). This means that on an average of 1,680 babies were born dead every day in the country in that time. Though the situation has improved, but just marginally since then.
While on population growth, when comparing India to China, we should not forget another important demographic aspect i.e. China’s area is 2.93 times of that of India and that is why its density of population is much lower, just 142 people as compared to much higher 370 people living over a land area of one square kilometre. And this implies that, in reality our population is 2.6 times that of China. Now take another example of USA, whose land area is 2.86 times of India’s, but its populations is just 30.8 crores, with a meagre density of 33 persons. By taking into account all these aspects of all the three countries, even an average person can well imagine – as to how we can even think of competing with other two economic giants of the globe, who are dominating the entire world scenario in a much bigger and influential manner, almost in all sphere of economic, scientific and industrial development. It is also very disturbing to note that our population has equalled to the combined population of USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan. All these six countries occupy around 14.22 % of the entire surface area whereas; India’s surface area is just 2.4% of whole earth. And this implies that there is certainly huge pressure to provide sustenance to people with our limited resources.
This over explosion of population is practically not only eating into the vitals of our gains achieved in agricultural and industrial growth, but also adds fuel to the fire by multiplying our problems on more than one front. For example, for providing roofs to the millions of more people, we have to construct lakhs of houses every year, which is causing a huge strain on our limited resources in one way and reducing our cultivable lands on the other. Not only that, we have to set-up thousands of new industries also every year to meet the requirement of goods for their various kinds of their uses & utilities. On the contrary, the land area of our country is the same as it was in 1947. As a result of this, forests, which are lungs of any nation, are being cut at many places. Consequently, it has started creating another kind of problem by causing environmental and ecological problems. It has been found that Cherrapunji in Assam which was famous world over for receiving heaviest rainfall (more than 500 mm per year) just 20/25 years ago, is now experiencing scarcity of water, because mankind has been awefully unkind to the forests and this selfish behaviour of people is not only causing catastrophic effect on the lives of human being, but also destroying the natural habitats of thousands of animals living there. Besides, the overuse of natural resources is also causing wide spread damage to the environment. Floods and tsunamis are just a way of nature to express its fury to mankind for the wrongs committed on it.
To feed millions of people every year, farmers are resorting to excessive use of fertilizers to get higher yield per acre of the various kinds of crops and also spraying a lot of pesticides and insecticides etc. for killing insects which damage their crops. But this excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides etc. is not only causing damage to the nutritious food value of vegetables and fruits etc., but it is also polluting our underground water resources. Secondly, our land area under cultivation is decreasing day by day, as more and more land is being converted to housing and industrial uses. Thus, it can be observed that this population explosion is, in fact, a root cause of thousands of other problems afflicting our society (like housing, food, water, electricity, unemployment, clothing, setting up new schools and colleges, hospitals & nursing homes, construction of new roads, environmental degradation and all the three kinds of pollution – air, water and noise) and is putting breaks on our national progress, development and prosperity.
But, it pity that the kind of leaders that we had right from our independence till date, no one has dwelled on this problem with seriousness and sincerity that it deserves to be handled, as they remained more concerned with vote bank politics rather than thinking from nationalistic outlook and a vision for the coming generations. They have made laws of every kind to broaden their tax-base and collecting higher revenues, but never bothered to tame an ever prolific python which is causing severe breaks on our road to progress, development and prosperity and thereby dragging us to lag behind other developed economies of the world like USA, UK, Russia, Germany, France and Australia. Had our leaders properly drafted a concrete population policy and declared it soon after independence, and implemented it in true sense of letter and spirit even in a phased manner – by limiting the family to two or three children during the first decade of independence, one or two children in the second and finally “One Family One Child” norm thereafter, our population would not have gone beyond 50 crores by now. Where there is scarcity of everything now, there would have been plenty of most of the things for our citizens and that would have changed our socio-economic scenario altogether. Hundreds of our other problems would have been automatically disappeared.
Remember that no problem should be allowed to be termed as a “personal domain” in case it is causing damage on national scale. China has been able to curtail rogue population growth by making a law and strictly implementing the same. Russia has gone even a step further and has achieved negative growth rate. If they can do, why not India? The only quality which is very badly required is a strong will-power and the results shall follow you automatically.
That is why, finally it is suggested that Government of India should arise from its deep slumber, throw away its narrow minded parochial approach with an eye on garnering maximum number of votes only, and formulate a proper vision of our country and legalise a clear-cut population policy incorporating the following points :-
1. Increase the minimum age of marriage for boys and girls from the existing 21 and 18 to 25 and 22 respectively for all citizens,
2. No family shall have more than one child, irrespective of its religion, region, caste, colour or creed,
3. If some family decides not to have a child of their own or adopts another’s child, he should be given some financial incentive / additional tax rebates, and
4. Violation of any of these family norms should attract severe penalties, which should inter-alia, debar him or her from getting any government job, right to contest elections to the village panchayat, municipal corporation, state assembly or member of parliament etc.
And that is the only sure shot way to achieve family planning targets on a national scale and thereby make India a strong competitor with other developed nations around the globe. Otherwise, an old phrase “Indian beds are more fertile than Indian fields” shall continue to give sleepless nights to our policy planners and mobilise gigantic resources for implementing so many projects and schemes for the ever prolifically sprouting population.