“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is the world’s blueprint for a better future for all on a healthy planet. On World Population Day, we recognize that this mission is closely interrelated with demographic trends including population growth, ageing, migration and urbanization.” – UN Secretary- General António Guterres
The current estimates indicate that roughly 83 million people are being added to the world’s population every year. Even assuming that fertility levels will continue to decline, the global population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, according to the medium-variant projection. The population of the world is rapidly increasing day by day and this is a matter of concern for the whole of the world. The resources available are getting depleted and the natural resources are on the verge of extinction. With such an increase in the population, there is need for implementing policies, programmes and awareness which can help us to combat the major issue of population explosion. Growing population is also one of the hurdles for the developing countries and the underdeveloped nations. High rate of population hampers development and economic growth of the nation. Over population leads to denial of basic needs and livelihood of many. India is the second most populous country in the world. According to the recent United Nation projections, India is set to surpass China as the world’s most populous country by 2027.,. Currently India’s population is over 1.37 billion which is second to China’s 1.4 billion and is expected to increase by another 230 million by 2050. Hence, there is a need to implement strict laws which can help to prevent further increase in the population.
- Population in India
The population of a country is considered both an asset and a liability. Population has a very significant position in the economic development of the nation. India has been a victim of population growth. Although the country has achieved great progress in the economic development, the population has eroded the growth potentials. India’s population as on March 1, 2011 stood at 1,210,193,422 (623.7 million males and 586.4 females) in compared to a total of 1,028,737,436 in the year 2001. This figure clearly state that the population of India has increased by more than 181 million during the decade 2001 – 2011. The population in 2020 stands at 1,396,150,120 and it comprises of 17.87% of the world population. It is regarded that on an average 1 in 6 of every person alive on earth is living in India. It is pertinent to note that India covers an area of over 3.2 million square kilometers which makes India the seventh largest nation in the world. India ranks 29th in terms of density of population where there are 420 people living in per square kilometer area. The density of population in India is very higher is some metropolitan cities. For example, the population density in Mumbai is 21,000 people per square kilometer, which is very high as compared to India’s density. The density of population in the mega cities in India is very high where 46 of those cities have a population of over 1 million people while 11 of them have a population greater than 3 million. The three largest cities in the country are Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore where each of these cities has a population of over 8 million people. The existing population of India is such a high that many of them are not being fed, clothed and housed properly and they live in miserable condition. In the above circumstances there is a dire need to control the existing population to improve the condition of the people and carve out a better standard of living for the upcoming generation of the Country.
- Reasons for the growth of Population in Indiai. Higher birth rate and low death rate
Birth rate in India is very high as against many countries of the world. This has remained one of the major causes of such a higher growth of population in India. The practice of early marriage, poverty, lack of conscious family planning, the tropical position of India leading to earlier puberty, etc. has been some of the reasons for higher birth rate. Improvement in medical and health facilities, control on spread of famines and diseases like malaria, tuberculosis , improvement in the hygiene in rural as well as urban areas and availability of basic resources, etc. though being a blessing towards humanity and reasons for the fall in the death rate in India, yet has acted as a catalyst towards the growth rate and overpopulation .
ii. Early marriage
Child marriage contributes to a higher fertility as women who marries at early age tends to have children at an early age and bear more children over their lifetime. The children are forced to marry at a very young age due to old traditional and cultural norms. This causes an increase in the birth rate. This practice is still prevalent in the rural areas in India which has led to increase in the rural population drastically. It is pertinent to note that, if the average age of marriage is increased, it would help in controlling and declining the birth rate thereby restraining overpopulation.
iii. High rate of illiteracy
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) report stated that India has the largest illiterate population in the world. Illiteracy leads to many problems which hampers the systematic development of the society. It further impedes people to take decision regarding proper family planning. Illiteracy is regarded as a mother of various issues like poverty, unemployment and overpopulation. India being a victim of this, is highly hit by the repercussions of illiteracy.. It is a well known fact that education helps a person to understand the situation and take a rationale decision. Educated men and women are in a better position to take decision regarding the family planning.
iv. Illegal migrants and arrival of refugees
Migration (legal or illegal) also leads to increase in the population of a country. India has been continuously suffering the consequence of immigration (checked or unchecked) from its neighboring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Srilanka and other countries..
- Problems of Over Populationi. Unemployment
Overpopulation increases unemployed population of the nation. The unemployed population is often unfortunately treated as a burden on the society as well as the nation. The rural area suffers more due to such problem of unemployment along with problems like low per capita, lack of land availability, increase in subdivision of land and fragmentation of land holdings, disguised unemployment, etc. Due to lesser opportunities available in rural areas, the rural population travel to the cities which adds to the trouble in the cities. Human resource is one of the most important assets for any nation, however, if there is an increase in the population, then it becomes a liability on state as they need to take care of such unproductive population.
ii. Depletion of resources
Due to population explosion India is facing massive depletion of resources. The resources are being utilized increasingly for fulfilling the wants of the people and are getting exploited due to scarcity of its availability. There are also many problems with regards to land availability and water resources. Over sized population has also lead to issues relating to food safety and food security. There is an increase in the demand of goods whereas the resources of the nation are limited and are depleting gradually.
iii. Infrastructural problems
Higher rate of population creates pressure on the Country’s infrastructure which also impedes the developmental activities to keep a pace with the growth of population. This has resulted in lack of important services like communication, health care, transportation, housing, education, and other allied services and facilities. Over population has also led to increase in the slum areas, traffic congestions, lesser space for play areas and play grounds for children, etc.
iv. Poverty and unequal income distribution
Rising population is one of the major reasons for increase in poverty in India. Over population leads to larger families and low income which impacts their standard of living . Further, the problem of unequal distribution of incomeescalates the gap between the rich and the poor.
- Initiatives by the Government to control the population
The need to bring a check on the increasing population in India was realized even before the independence. With independence, the Country inter alia emphasized on a crucial subject matter of planning, that is, population control whichwas an important aspect of development. However, laws specifically dealing with the control and regulation of population is yet to be enacted by the government of the Country. It is also important to note that the recently drafted Population Regulation Bill is pending in the parliament. Nevertheless, the Government of India has initiated various measures to control the increasing population. These measures include initiatives by planning commission, inclusion of family planning in the 5 year development plans, etc. Following are the various measures introduced by the Government to control the population:
i. First Five Year Plan (1951 – 1956)
The draft outline of the First Five Year Plan (1951-1956) said, “the increasing pressure of population on natural resources retards economic progress and limits seriously the rate of extension of social services, so essential to civilized existence. A population policy is therefore essential to planning.” Fertility, mortality and migration were the three important components which were given prime importance in this plan. This plan also considered the aspect of family planning as a concern of priority. Following were the objectives of the plan:
- To obtain an accurate picture of the factors which contribute to a rapid increase of population;
- To gain a fuller understanding of human fertility and the means of regulating it;
- To devise speedy ways of education of the public; and
- To make family planning counselling an integral part of the services in hospitals and health centers.
India became the first country in the world to formulate a National Family Planning Programme in 1952, with the objective of “reducing birth rate to the extent necessary to stabilise the population at a level consistent with requirement of national economy“. Hence, this was an important step towards considering the population and bringing a control on the same.
ii. The Second Five Year Plan (1956-1961)
The Second Five Year Plan emphasized more on the control of population. The plan recognized that the rate of economic development would depend upon the rate of growth of population and hence, there is an urgent need to control the growing population. This national programme had following four main components:
- Education to create the background of contraceptive acceptance;
- Service through rural and urban centers, including the provision of sterilization facilities;
- Training of personnel; and
- Research.iii. The Third Five Year Plan (1961 – 1966)
This plan considered and focused on social measures like education, employment, rural water supply and the expansion of family planning programmes. It is also important to note that the Census of 1961 had stated that there has been a sharp growth in the population and hence family planning and welfare programmes were given higher priority.
iv. The Fourth Five Year Plan (1969 – 1974)
During the Fourth Five Year Plan, the government focused mainly on population and find out the measures for curbing the growing rate of population. For achieving the same, the government initiated awareness regarding small family norms, enhancing knowledge regarding methods of family planning and it was again reiterated that family planning would remain the utmost agenda so as to control the population.
v. The Fifth Five Year Plan (1974 – 1979)
The aspect of family planning was given the same priority during this plan. This plan also emphasized on the decision relating to the integrated family planning and major efforts which would be taken by the central government. The approach under this programme was completely different from the previous plans as this plan focused on and introduced schemes like National Minimum Needs Programme and improved facilities like public health care, availability of medicines, etc.
vi. National Population Policy 1976
The programmes implemented by the government aimed at family planning and welfare. The government also introduced various methods of birth control like sterilization, IUCD, conventional contraceptives, free medical facilities, training of medical personnel and public health workers. The enactment of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1922 was a further initiative of the Government on the basis of the recommendation made by the B. Shantilal Shah Committee. Population control also received a global importance. One of such significant occasion was in the year 1974 when the United Nations declared the year 1974 as the “World Population Year” at the United Nations World Population Conference held at Bucharest, Romania. The major theme that emerged from the Bucharest meeting was that population policy and programme must be pursued in the context of development and that population growth and development were integrated. These ideas were reflected in the National Population Policy 1976. The need of such a policy was felt since 1970s and efforts were being made to establish a substantive policy. Following were the important aspects of this policy:
- The Government proposed legislations to raise the minimum age of marriage. The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1921 prescribed 15 as the minimum age for girls and 18 for boys for marriage. Further the age was raised to 18 and 21 for the girls and boys respectively. The policy provided that if this provision was violated, severe punishment would be awarded by an officer not below the rank of Sub-Divisional Magistrate. The question of compulsory registration of marriage was also given a consideration.
- Sterilisation was compulsory but it was left to the States to have their own legislation. The upper limit of a family was three children, applicable to all citizens without distinction of caste, creed or religion.
- Family planning had also a political impact. A fall in population reduced the number of seats in the Parliament. This affected the interests of the States, which were not keen to implement the programme. The National Population Policy stipulated that the representation in the Lok Sabha be frozen on the basis of the 1971 population till 2001. This meant that the census of 1981 and 1991 would not be considered for the adjustment of the Lok Sabha seats. Constitutional amendments were made for this purpose.
- The monetary compensation for sterilization was raised to Rs. 150 if performed after two children, Rs.100 after three children and Rs.70 after four or more. The Government also announced special measures to raise the level of the women’s education in all the States.
- The population policy also focused on making necessary changes in the service and conduct rules of Central Government employees to make them adopt the small family norm.vii. The Sixth Five Year Plan (1980 – 1985)
The Sixth Five Year Plan was formulated after considering the failures of previous year plans. Health was given due importance and family welfare was again considered as a major component of the plan. This plan had all the features as stated in National Population Policy and provided that the policy should reflect concern for the individual as well as the community’s dignity, needs and aspirations and should be such as would deal with overall development issues and not merely population control.
viii. Report of Planning Commission Working Group in 1980
This is another significant report of the Planning Commission Working Group which was based on the National Population Policy. The group laid down a long-term goal of a Need Reproductive Rate (NRR) of one on an average for the whole country by 1996 and in all states by 2001. The group suggested the following strategies:
- Developing the necessary level of demand;
- Provisions of the supply of services of all kinds needed by the people;
- The health care, education, water supply, employment, per capita income and urbanization be linked to fertility control.
- Establishment of an extensive data base and a comprehensive health information system.ix. The Seventh Five Year Plan (1985 – 1990)
The Seventh Five Year Plan was initiated after understanding the failures on the Sixth Five Year Plan. It was understood that the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan were among the poor performers in terms of achieving the NRR and hence, this plan shifted the target of reaching an NRR of 1 to the year 2006 – 2011 from the previous set target of 2001. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also formulated many revised strategies to achieve the targets.
x. The Eighth Five Year Plan (1992 – 1997)
Health and population control were the two main component of this plan where human development was targeted to be achieved. The government aimed to increase the health facilities and improve the medical assistance in the rural areas. Services like welfare, human resource development, nutrition, and other allied services were give prime importance.
xi. 79th Constitutional Amendment Bill, 1992
In 1992, the Narasimha Rao government had proposed the 79th Constitutional Amendment Bill for making the two-child norm for being eligible to contest the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections. It was introduced by the Health Minister M.L. Fotedar who proposed amendments in Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Duties to promote population control. The Bill stipulated amendment to the Direct Principles of State Policy (Article 47) to provide that “state shall endeavour to promote population control” and include the promotion and adoption of the small family norm by citizens as one of the fundamental duties (Article 51 A). But, subsequently due to the demolition of Babri Mosque on 6th December 1992 the bill was last tabled for discussion on 18th December 1992 and no further discussion could be held on it.
xii. The Ninth Five Year Plan (1997 – 2002)
The Planning Commission realized that the goals which were targeted to be achieved by 2000 were lagging behind and there was a need to focus on the targets so as to achieve the goals by 2000. During the same period a committee was working on drafting of the National Population Policy which focused on controlling the population.
xiii. National Population Policy 2000
An expert group headed by M.S Swaminathan was appointed to prepare the draft of a second National Population Policy. The second National Population Policy (NPP 2000) finally came into force in the year 2000. The National Population Policy, 2000 affirms the commitment of the government towards voluntary and informed choice and consent of citizens while availing of reproductive health care services, and continuation of the target free approach in administering family planning services. The objectives of this policy were as under:
- The immediate Objective: To address the unmet needs for contraception, health, care infrastructure, health personnel and to provide integrated service delivery for basic reproductive and child health care.
- The medium term Objective: To bring the Total Fertility Rate to replacement levels by 2010, through vigorous implementation of inter-sectoral operational strategies.
- The long term Objective: To achieve a stable population by 2045, at a level consistent with the requirements of sustainable economic growth, social development, and environmental protection.
The policy has also provided National Socio- Demographic Goals which were to be achieved by 2010. These includes, addressing the unmet needs for basic reproductive and child health services, suppliers and infrastructure, reducing infant mortality rate to below 30 per 1000 live birth and mortality ratio to below 1000 per 10,000 live birth, achieve universal immunization of children against all vaccine preventable diseases., to bring convergence in implementation of related social sector programs so that family welfare becomes a people centred programme, and many other similar goals.
The policy also suggested adopting promotional and motivational measures for implementation of the small family norms.
xiv. National Health Policy 2017
National Health Policies, Strategies and Plans play an essential role in defining a country’s vision, policy directions and strategies for ensuring the health of its population. India had implemented the first National Health Policy in 1983 which emphasized on the need of securing the small family norm through voluntary efforts and moving towards the goal of population stabilization. The second policy was launched in 2002. Hence, the policy of 1983 and 2002 served as a guiding plan for the health sector in the Five Year Plans. There were many fundamental changes in 14 years and hence the policy of 2017 was established after taking into consideration the requirements of the present needs. The objective of the policy was to improve health status through concerted policy action in all sectors and expand preventive, promotive, curative, palliative and rehabilitative services provided through the public health sector with focus on quality. The policy had also recognized the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals and framed its actions in the required manner. The primary aim of the National Health Policy, 2017, is to inform, clarify, strengthen and prioritize the role of the Government in shaping health systems in all its dimensions- investments in health, organization of healthcare services, prevention of diseases and promotion of good health through cross sectoral actions, access to technologies, developing human resources, encouraging medical pluralism, building knowledge base, developing better financial protection strategies, strengthening regulation and health assurance.
The policy also makes a provision for achieving population stabilization where it recognized that improved access, education and empowerment would be the basis of successful population stabilization. Further, it proposes to move away from camp based services with all its attendant problems of quality, safety and dignity of women, to a situation where these services are available on any day of the week or at least on a 14 fixed day. Other policy imperatives are to increase the proportion of male sterilization from less than 5% currently, to at least 30% and if possible much higher.
xv. Population Regulation Bill, 2019
The Population Regulation Bill, 2019 is recently introduced in the Rajya Sabha in June 2019. The bill suggest that government employees should give an undertaking that they will not procure more than two children and also suggest withdrawal of welfare measures from the poor who have more than two children. It also proposes to introduce two-child policy for controlling the population and other benefits like income tax rebates, free health care for parents, subsidies and loans for plots and houses. The bill has been introduced with the objective to revitalize efforts towards promoting the small family norms of up to two children per eligible couple; to ensure healthy birth spacing through measures related to augmenting the availability, accessibility and affordability of quality reproductive health services, and other relevant inter-sectoral development instruments by the Central and the State Governments; to achieve the goal of stabilization of population commensurate with the emerging social, economic, health, nutritional, epidemiological, environmental and other developmental needs of the national economy; to recognize the implications of population momentum on the prospects of national progress in the long run, propelled through its young and dynamic population age-structure; to ameliorate and harness the demographic potential in the sustainable manner and help to engulf the prevailing demographic and socioeconomic disparities across population groups and regions, and render equal opportunities for all, irrespective of age, sex, religion, caste, class, race, residence, language etc. to achieve the fullest development potential.
It is pertinent to note that it may take at least two years to enact this law as the next census will take place in 2021 and the concrete report of the same would be available only in 2022, hence, this would prevent the government to enact any legislation till the said report is available.
Over population is one of the major crisis before the nation and it is a serious obstacle in the economic development. The concerns of the Government to control population growth deserves appreciation as its efforts were to some extent responsible for reducing the population growth in the Country.. Initiatives of the government has facilitated increased awareness relating to family planning and infrastructure, further, various training institution has been set up for the same. These initiatives have to a great extent promoted a fall in the birth rate. India has also timely introduced various measures relating to control over the increasing population, however, overpopulation has remained as one of the major concern till date. There is a need to establish and enact strict laws and policy measures which can help us to effectively handle the growing issue of overpopulation. Overpopulation in current scenario has becomea liability on the government, hence, there is an urgent need to control this so as to inter alia utilize the resources in effective manner and convert the human resources into productive assets for the nation.
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