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How to deal with overpopulation?

The latest government reports on India’s population, saying that the country has 1.27 billion people at present, is alarming to say the least. It is extremely distressing to note that increasingly we are pushing the difficult issue of population control under the carpet of glib rhetoric of development. The latest numbers indicate that India is home to about 655.8 million males and 614.4 million females, with there being about 51 births in the country every minute. Although rate of population growth has been decelerating for some years now, nevertheless, it has been increasing steadily, from 1.21 billion in 2011 to 1.22 billion in 2012, to the rather steep rise at 1.27 in 2013. On top of this, India’s abysmal track record at providing basic nutrition levels, particularly to children, only attests to the vicious cycle of poverty and overpopulation, leading to what the economists now call the ‘poverty trap’. Population growth is the source of most the ills plaguing the country at present, including deplorable performance in all areas such as child mortality and nutrition, ensuring health and wellbeing, employment and job growth, providing basic facilities such as electricity, drinking water, sanitation, cooking gas among others.  Without adequate measures to tackle the menace of uncontrolled population, the overriding objective of economic and social development, that is to improve the quality of lives of the masses of poor in this country, to ‘provide them with opportunities and choices to become productive assets in society’ will not be achieved.      

Although draconian population control measures like those espoused by late Sanjay Gandhi in 1970s, are not advisable, India must brace for systematic and comprehensive ways to address the issue. India was the first country in the world to launch a national programme to curb population as early as 1952, and the government body National Commission on Population charts policy measures such as the National Population Policy 2000, which was chalked up after India crossed the one billion mark. With India poised to overtake China in population by 2045, to become the most populous country in the world, it is high time that we start seriously thinking about bringing it under control. It is said that India, in terms of population, adds an Australia (just 23 million) to its burgeoning numbers everyday!  However, politicians are wary of touching the taboo subject that population growth has become, for the fear of ‘hurting’ sentiments, religious and otherwise, of several communities. While decisions cannot be imposed without consent, we need to have more discussions in order to formulate viable policies to ensure population control. Further, incentivising self-regulation amongst the poorer and rural sections, such as subsidised food or meals, jobs to family members, welfare benefits, free medical care etc., would go great lengths to bring down the growth rate, while adding life expectancy to the majority of people. Stabilising population is an essential requirement for promoting sustainable development with more equitable distribution.
Agencies

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