Dubious distinction to achieve?
We the people of India may not have felt proud on World Population Day, which was celebrated on July 11. India is the world’s second most populous country after China. However, India occupies just 2.4 % of world’s land surface, despite being home to 17.5% of the world’s population. India stood at 1.21 billion on March 31, 2011, which has now risen to 1.27 billion. We have increased our population by 6.5 crore during last 51 months. India’s land share stands sixth after Australia. Seemingly there is no decline in population growth, as we are growing at a rate of 1.6 % per annum. Are India’s citizens willing to appreciate the dubious recognition of being the world’s most populous country by 2050?
As per UNICEF data, our population stood at 1260 million in 2012, as against 1350 million in China. In 2050, these numbers are expected to rise to 1691 million for India against 1311 million for China. The ten most populated countries are China, India, US, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia and Japan. It is expected that in 2050 the club of the ten most populous countries would have the two new members Congo and Ethiopia. They will find their place by replacing Russia and Japan. As per UNICEF data in respect of an annual population growth during 1990-2007, the figure for India stood at 1.8% and 0.9% for China. The USA witnessed a similar growth rate at 1%, Nigeria 2.6%, Pakistan 2.2 %, Bangladesh 2% , Japan 0.2% and Russia (–) 0.2 %.
It is certain that the future population growth will be in the world’s less developed countries. The quantum of such an increase in population is going to be surprising as well as alarming. In 1950, the total population of such countries was 1.7 billion or two-thirds of the world’s total population, whereas it will soon touch 8 billion, 86% of world’s total population. The main factors responsible for such a population explosion in these countries are low income, high economic vulnerability and poor human indicators.
The most densely populated regions in our country are the Gangetic plains, eastern and western coastal regions of the southern plateau. Meanwhile, the Thar desert in Rajasthan is the most populated desert in the world. Due to poverty, illiteracy, hunger, high fertility rate, rapid decline in the death rate and immigration from the two neighbouring countries-Nepal and Bangladesh, India’s population is rapidly growing. We have been recording at least 60 births a minute in the country.
The states of UP, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, MP, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat are the ten top states in order of the highest population in the country. Of these ten states, the population of a few states is higher than the population of many countries in the world. The population of UP stands equal to that of Brazil. Similarly, Maharashtra stands toe to toe with Mexico and the population of Bihar today has surpassed that of Germany.
The combined population percentage of only seven states in the country– UP (16.49 %), Maharashtra (9.28 %), Bihar (8.58 %) , West Bengal (7.55 % ), Tamil Nadu (5.96%) and Rajasthan (5.67 %) comes to around 54 percent of India’s total population. The population growth rate of many highly populated states had been between 5 to 18 % in previous decades. This is, of course, an alarming sign for the entire nation as our natural resources are limited.
The country’s annual growth has slowed down from 2.15 % to 1.76 %. The decennial growth rate in 2001 was 21.15 %, which was soon restricted to 17.64 % in 2011.
All states except Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh have shown a decline in the decennial growth rate of 2011. With respect to Tamil Nadu, it increased from 11.72 % in 2001 to 15.60 % in 2011. For Chhattisgarh the hike was recorded from 18.27 % to 22.59 % respectively. There has been a satisfactory decline in the decennial growth rate percentage from 1971 onwards- 24.80, 24.66, 23.87, 21.54 and 17.64 in 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011 respectively. When we refer to the progressive growth rate over India’s population in 1901, one may notice the growth percentage of 84.25, 129.94, 186.64, 255.05, 331.52 and 407.64 in 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001, and 2011 respectively. Even with the current declining trend in the decennial growth rate our country is bound to overtake China in the coming decades. Such a scenario requires close introspection of our population stabilisation programme. It is true that coercive efforts like in China will not bring any positive result. Hence, it is time to conduct in-depth deliberations.