Concern for increasing population in India just a political rhetoric

India’s population will soon stabilise, but the government is just not noticing the facts

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Friday 19 July 2019
Photo: Getty Images

India is witnessing a sharp decline in population growth, according to Economic Survey 2018-19, which was tabled in the Parliament on July 4, 2019. A week later, a parliamentarian pushed a private bill for punitive action against those who have more than two children.

Clearly unaware of the facts highlighted by the Economic Survey, BJP MP Rakesh Sinha stoked a controversy with the introduction of Population Regulation Bill, 2019.

It was introduced on July 12, 2019 and the suggested punitive actions it called for included disqualification from being an elected representative, denial of financial benefits and also reducing benefits under Public Distribution System (PDS).  According to the Bill, government employees would have been asked to give an undertaking that they would not procreate more than twice.

But the fact is something entirely different. India is moving towards replacement growth rate rapidly and very soon the population is going to stabilise.

The annual population growth rate reduced to around 1.3 per cent in 2011-16 from 2.5 per cent during 1971-81.

Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Maharashtra, Assam and many other states have already managed to bring their growth to replacement rate. And states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana, which were lagging behind, will rapidly move towards achieving the replacement level, which is 2.1.

“India is set to witness a sharp slowdown in population growth in the next two decades. Population in the 0-19 age bracket has already peaked due to sharp decline in total fertility rates (TFR) across the country,” according to the survey.

Replacement rate can be defined as the amount of fertility needed to keep the population the same from generation to generation. It refers to the total fertility rate that will result in a stable population without it increasing or decreasing.

Moreover, 24 states including Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Punjab and southern states have achieved fertility rates well below the replacement rate.  Other states are also moving in the same direction and, as a result, the national TFR is expected to be below replacement level by 2021, the survey highlighted.

But, not a single state out of all 24 that have achieved the replacement level TFR of 2.1 has used any coercive methods. It has been achieved by empowering women and providing better education and health care facilities, said Poonam Muttreja, executive director of Population Foundation of India (PFI).

So instead of demanding coercive methods, Sinha should ask the government to take positive steps that are more inclusive and fulfil the unmet need for contraceptives and services.

According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-IV), around 13 per cent of currently married women under the age bracket of 15 to 49 years don’t get support for family planning.  This translates to around 30 million women, added Muttreja.

The crisis gets compounded when the government’s approach is considered. The family planning component receives merely four per cent of the total budget allocated for National Health Mission’s Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) flexi pool. Around 40 per cent of the total funds made available for family planning in 2016-17 were not even spent.

This shows that the government is not keen to move in the right direction when it comes to family planning or population control, or the Rajya Sabha MP is just not aware of the available facts.

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