From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing Much
Mains level : Population control Policies
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Last month, the United Nations released the 26th revision of World Population Prospects and forecast that India will overtake China as the most populous country by 2027. The only surprise associated with this forecast is the way it was covered by the media. Is this good news or bad news? Is it news at all?
Most populous country
- We have known for a long time that India is destined to be the most populous country in the world.
- Population projections are developed using existing population and by adjusting for expected births, deaths and migration.
- For short-term projections, the biggest impact comes from an existing population, particularly women in childbearing ages.
- Having instituted a one-child policy in 1979, China’s female population in peak reproductive ages (between 15 and 39 years) is estimated at 235 million (2019) compared to 253 million for India.
- Failures of punitive actions
- History tells us that unless the Indian state can and chooses to act with the ruthlessness of China, the government has few weapons in its arsenal.
- Almost all weapons that can be used in a democratic nation, have already been deployed.
- These include restriction of maternity leave and other maternity benefits for first two births only and disqualification from panchayat elections for people with more than two children in some States along with minor incentives for sterilisation.
- Ground-level research by former Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh Nirmala Buch found that individuals who wanted larger families either circumvented the restrictions or went ahead regardless of the consequences.
2.Incentives for population control
- Second, if punitive actions won’t work, we must encourage people to have smaller families voluntarily.
- There are sharp differences in fertility among different socio-economic groups.
- Total Fertility Rate (TFR) for the poorest women was 3.2 compared to only 1.5 for the richest quintile in 2015-16.
- Desire to invest in their children’s future – Research with demographer Alaka Basu from Cornell University shows that it is a desire to invest in their children’s education and future prospects that seems to drive people to stop at one child.
- Richer individuals see greater potential for ensuring admission to good colleges and better jobs for their children, inspiring them to limit their family size.
- Thus, improving education and ensuring that access to good jobs is open to all may also spur even poorer households into having fewer children and investing their hopes in the success of their only daughter or son.
- Accessible contraceptive – Provision of safe and easily accessible contraceptive services will complete this virtuous cycle.
3.Population and policy
- Third, we must change our mindset about how population is incorporated in broader development policies.
- Population growth in the north and central parts of India is far greater than that in south India.
- These policies include using the 1971 population to allocate seats for the Lok Sabha and for Centre-State allocation under various Finance Commissions.
- In a departure from this practice, the 15th Finance Commission is expected to use the 2011 Census for making its recommendations.
- This has led to vociferous protests from the southern States as the feeling is that they are being penalised for better performance in reducing fertility.
- Between the 1971 and 2011 Censuses, the population of Kerala grew by 56% compared to about 140% growth for Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
- A move to use the 2011 Census for funds allocation will favour the north-central States compared to Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
- However, continuing to stay with a 1971 Census-based allocation would be a mistake.
- Investment in the education and health – In order to maximise the demographic dividend, we must invest in the education and health of the workforce, particularly in States whose demographic window of opportunity is still more than a decade away.
- Staying fixated on the notion that revising State allocation of Central resources based on current population rather than population from 1971 punishes States with successful population policies is shortsighted.
- This is because current laggards will be the greatest contributors of the future for everyone, particularly for ageing populations of early achievers.
- Enhancing their productivity will benefit everyone.
- It is time for India to accept the fact that being the most populous nation is its destiny.
- It must work towards enhancing the lives of its current and future citizens.