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Time To Act On Population Explosion

Kulbhushan Upmanyu

(The writer is an environmentalist heading Himalaya Niti Abhiyan)

India had started population control measures way back in 1960s as it was increasing rapidly after the independence due to availability of better health facilities and elimination of epidemics. So the idea of population control was obvious and a slogan was coined at that time ‘bas do ya teen bache hote hain ghar mein ache’. The slogan was reformed in 70s with a tagline ‘hum do hamare do’. Now the educated parents consider only one child as good with government too indirectly encouraging this trend by providing special incentives for single daughter child in education. However the population is still rapidly increasing due to  lack of awareness and educational facilities in certain areas. In addition, some religious groups and dharma gurus too oppose population control measures.

There was a time when health facilities were not easily available and modern technological system to control epidemics was also missing. Epidemics, high birth death rate, death of pregnant during delivery and deaths due to drought; nature itself used to control population. Average life expectancy has also risen to 60–70 years because of progress in medical science and technology. Perception of having more kids to be on a safe side has changed completely now.

Total population of undivided India before independence was 40 crore. And now population of India alone according to 2011 census has crossed 121 crore mark. Average increase rate in population per decade is 13.5. And according to these statistics another eight crore must have been added by 2016 taking total population to 129 crore. Biggest increase in population rate was witnessed in Muslim community that grew at 24.6% from 2001 to 2011. However, the same rate for Muslims was was 29.52% in previous decade. It means that awareness has spread in Muslim community too resulting in a decrease of about five percent in population growth rate.

During the same period, Hindus grew at 16.76% rate, Christians at 15.5%, Sikhs at 8.4% and Jains at 5.4% rate. These figures indicate that Muslims, Hindus and Christian needs to pay more attention towards population control. The population growth rate has decreased by 3% in case of Hindus this decade (2001 – 2011) as compared to previous decade. Increase in population puts burden on resources that are available in a limited amount. It could lead to food grain shortage, water crisis, land crisis and shortage of other things necessary for livelihood. Therefore it is necessary to give priority to put a check on extravagant use and wastage of natural resources while keeping a check on population. Ironically political parties despite knowing the seriousness of the issue avoid to speak on family planning issue. Sanjay Gandhi, younger son of Indira Gandhi, during emergency in 1975, forcibly and dictatorially imposed family planning measures on public. As a result this noble practice also received bad name and public took the revenge by giving a humiliating defeat to Congress.

Political parties thereafter shy from saying anything on family planning issue. The family planning programmes thereafter are running silently but the results are not in the same amount as is the intensity of population explosion here. Solution to population explosion needs to be explored beyond and above religious lines. It is the demand of the time that progressive decisions should not be delayed under the regressive pressure and mindset. Otherwise all efforts of development will prove futile.

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