- GS-2: Population and associated issues,
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: The National Population Policy 2000 affirmed a commitment to achieve replacement levels of fertility (total fertility rate of 2.1) by 2010.
- Ten states — Karnataka, Punjab, Gujarat, Assam, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala — and Jammu and Kashmir, have achieved this goal, albeit much delayed.
- Kerala and Tamil Nadu had accomplished it decades earlier.
- Secular Decline: This fertility decline over half of India has cut across all sections of society — the privileged and the poor, those educated or not, and the high and low caste.
Key Takeaways from Success of Southern States
- Question over Prerequisites: When fertility reduction in the five southern states succeeded, irrespective of literacy and education levels and could permeate all sections, it overturns the conventional wisdom that literacy, education and development are prerequisites for populations to stabilise.
- Proactiveness of State Governments: Fertility decline was achieved because southern governments proactively urged families to have only two children, followed by female sterilisation immediately thereafter. Almost the entire state apparatus was marshalled to achieve this objective.
Issue of UP and Bihar
- Populous States with High Population Growth: UP and Bihar are 23 per cent of India’s population and are projected to grow by over 12 per cent and 20 per cent in the next 15 years. Their high TFR pervades all religious groups.
- High Fertility: Women in rural UP are still giving birth to four or more children.
- Low Contraceptive Usage: the contraceptive prevalence rate is less than 10 per cent. UP’s has an over-reliance on traditional methods of contraception which is one of the factors for low contraceptive rate
- Migration Factor: Bihar has the highest fertility rate in the country and also the highest outmigration. Almost half the women in some districts have a migrant husband and empirical evidence shows women’s unwillingness to seek contraception in the absence of the husband, resulting in unprotected sex when he returns.
- Reliance on female sterilisation: No other country in the world uses female sterilisation as excessively as India. After the 2014 Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh) outrage, when more than 80 sterilisations were conducted in less than six hours and several women died, one expected that states would go slow on compulsory female sterilisation but has in fact not slowed down.
Issues with Population Control (at National Level)
- Late Adoption of Modern Methods: Indonesia and Bangladesh introduced injectables right from the late 1980s but India only did so in 2016. Executed properly, one jab renders protection from pregnancy for three months
- Lack of Political Will: While national and state policies emphasise male vasectomy, politicians never champion its adoption.
- Failure of Constitutional Motivation: The freeze on the state-wise allocation of seats in Parliament until 2026 was extended through the Constitutional (84th Amendment) Act, 2002, to serve “as a motivational measure to pursue population stabilisation” — a goal which has not been achieved. In the absence of further extension, it will be politically destabilising.
- Impact on Economic Growth: Demographics will eclipse economic growth and destroy the gains from a young populace.
- Patriarchy & Sex Ratio: Son preference, falling sex ratios, and an abhorrence towards begetting a second or third female child are negative developments that hampers population stabilizations
- Emergence of Son of Soil Narrative: Southern states that have achieved population stabilization now face the issue of the elderly outstripping the working-age population. As a result, there will be increasing emergence of resistance to people from northern states working in southern states.
- Incentivise later marriages and child births
- Make contraception easy for women: over-reliance on traditional methods of contraception needs to be swiftly replaced with reliable and easy alternatives
- Promote women’s labour force participation
- Stabilisation isn’t only about controlling population growth. A balanced sex ratio is essential to secure social cohesion.
The population momentum, if managed properly in the Hindi belt, will remain India’s biggest asset until 2055. By 2040, India will be the undisputed king of human capital.
Connecting the dots: