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Population Pressure


By Dr. Oishee Mukherjee

Population pressure in India which has created diverse problems, has now forced the Government to go back to the concept of family planning. Like the western world, which has made strides in controlling population, India too needs to take significant steps. Undeniably, serious efforts are needed to tackle the mounting challenge of this phenomenal increase, especially in our country, more than that of China.  

With the realisation having dawned, the government recently decided to accelerate family planning measures by identifying 146 districts where the total fertility rate is more than three which add up to 28 per cent of the population. The Union Health Ministry has rolled out Mission Parivar Vikas in the districts to improve access family planning services, create awareness and make family planning choices available. As part of the programme, the ministry would distribute a kit containing products of family planning and personal hygiene among the newly-weds.

The focus as reported would be strategic towards “improving access through provision of services, promotional schemes, commodity security, capacity building, enabling environment and intensive monitoring.” Officials have been asked to undertake half-yearly review of the programme and correlate the achievements with time to gauge whether the programme was moving in the right direction or not.

The high focus districts are in the seven States which include the four BIMARU States of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, as well as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Assam. While these are recognised as relatively backward States, some are trying to come out of the morass.   

Though statistics reveal that India’s population growth rate has declined, the pace is uneven across States and the more prosperous ones especially those in South India, have done remarkably well. As per government data, the country’s fertility rate declined from 2.6 in 2008 to 2.3 at present. It is now just 0.2 points away from reaching the replacement level of 2.1. Similarly fertility rates are dipping globally, some regions like Africa see a much lower decline from 5.1 to 4.7, while in Asia it has fallen from 2.4 to 2.2.

Further nine countries led by India, Nigeria, US, Uganda, Tanzania, Pakistan etc would account for more than half the growth in global population between now and 2050. Most of these are Third World countries and are constrained with meagre resources for developmental needs.   

The need for population stabilisation is imperative at this juncture to enable the country to move up the economic ladder and the new programme is aimed to achieve this. The greater the total fertility rate (TFR), the more will be the maternal mortality rate (MMR) and also infant mortality rate (IMR). Hence, reducing TFR would lead to decrease in maternal mortality and morbidity and infant mortality and morbidity through the Mission, noted Heath Minister Nadda. In fact, he went a step further and on the day of the launch to mark World Population Day, he stated: “We have enhanced the basket of contraceptive choices to meet the changing needs of people and have taken steps to ensure quality assured services and commodities are delivered to the last-mile consumers in both rural and urban areas.”      

Regrettably, previous governments didn’t lay emphasis on the fact that family planning requires and it is time to see how the new programme is geared to achieve the desired objectives. It has to be seriously taken up and it may be expected that the Modi government would do so as it has taken up most of its projects and schemes in a professional manner. Hopefully, like the Swaach Bharat Abhiyan, the Parivar Vikas programme would have to be given equal attention.

Keeping in view the meagre resources of developing countries like India so as to achieve a level of social and economic development of its people, there is an urgent necessity to keep fertility rate to below two, i.e. a maximum two children per family. China has taken several steps in this regard and the population growth is around or less than 0.5 per cent. In fact, reports reveal that India would overtake China in population growth by 2024, two years ahead than scheduled.      

There can be no doubt that a vigorous campaign has to be launched, specially in the villages of northern and central India, to raise awareness about the beneficial aspects of a small family. In view of the mounting health, nutrition and educational expenses, as also shelter needs, a small family can only ensure all-round social and economic development of the family.      

Much would depend on the efficient implementation of the present programme and how the Centre and States would be able to make inroads into the villages. But it needs to be pointed out that to make the programme a success, the involvement of the panchayats and the grass root organisations would be greatly necessary as a house-to-house campaign has to be launched in telling the people about the effectiveness of a small family.     

It would not be out of place to point out here that the Muslims still believe in having multiple wives and have no control on their number of children. Moreover, being a minority community, they want to increase their population by hook or by crook. This tendency has to be stopped, if necessary, through stricter measures. The Supreme Court judgment in the triple talaq case is awaited and, if the Muslims have to follow the personal law of the land, their number of children would come down.     

The poor and those from the economically weaker sections, who are normally found to be illiterate, do not think about family planning and the educational and health needs of their children, specially of their daughters through programmes like ‘Kanyashriee Prakalpa’ of the West Bengal government, which recently received UN award for empowering the girl child. This is because of the lack of awareness of the older generation but this is steadily undergoing a change with education and awareness spreading.       

Family planning has, no doubt, become quite effective but concentrated mostly in metros and cities. This has to spread in a vigorous manner to all the semi-urban and rural areas. For this orientation is education is necessary while adult education, primarily sex education, has to reach all segments of the population in the age group 18 to 45 years. This type of education has been largely ignored as a result of which family planning has not been quite effective. Thus, family planning camps have to be organised in most of the districts and sub-divisions to make this segment of the population aware of the ill effects of large family.       

Western nations have been able to march forward and develop fast as their population growth is much less and per capita income quite high. Though India cannot bring population growth to around such levels, it can, at this stage, implement the family planning programme seriously and try to check population growth. This would help the country to move ahead in its efforts at faster social and economic development. The emerging youth population, most of whom are quite aware and socially conscious, should have a major role to play and recent projections have considered this aspect. –INFA


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