ith the proposal of population control measures by the Uttar Pradesh government prior to just six months ahead of the state assembly election of 2022, the beginning of a huge controversy became indispensable as population explosion in India always remained a political issue rather than a social-economical issue of the nation. The Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilization and Welfare) draft, 2021 seems to be a bunch of monetary incentives to be conferred to the citizens of the states in lieu of one child or two children policy. Such incentives are linked to the government schemes, government jobs, promotions and welfare measures etc. which would be a driving force or motivational factors for those who wish to avail the benefits from the government.
Though, population control measures in India become mandatory as the burden of overpopulation is creating a shortage of resources such as hospitals, food grains, homes or jobs. On the other hand, looking at current trends, it can be guessed that by the year 2025 or may be before that India comes to the first place among the most populous countries. Despite this alarming bell for our policy makers and citizens, population control measures could not find a common agenda or policy measure of the nation as every government hastily acted for population stabilizations by spreading propaganda rather than introducing a concrete plan. Therefore, introducing the proposed draft by the UP government prior to six months of the election seems to be a political aspiration of the BJP government rather than a practical approach towards population control measures.
Bringing a comprehensive and appropriate formula for population control measures in India needs an in-depth analysis of demographic dividend as high population is not always the reason for poor economic condition. Otherwise, any hasty decision towards population stabilization may turn into a backfire for India like China. China introduced the one-child criterion for population control in the 1980s, but with the increasing share of older people in its population (due to the one-child policy), China abandoned the old policy and allowed married couples to have more children. During the emergency period of 1975 in India, unplanned efforts were also made to control the population on a large scale which emerged as a worst population control measures as many inhumane methods were used which led to create an atmosphere of fear among the people about family planning and its method, which not hindered the efforts of population control for many years but also created trust deficiency between state and citizens. However, population control measures always happen to be a double-edged sword having both advantages and disadvantages for the nation.
Theoretically, strict population control measures must be pre-requisite conditions for every government following Malthus’s view on population growth and its effects. According to him “population grows at twice the rate (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32), while resources increase at the same rate as normal (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). As a result the population doubles after every 25 years. In India, the population growth rate is higher than the rate of development; hence, it is necessary to bring population stability.
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Although, the proposed draft of the UP government did not accommodate the long term consequences of the population stabilization as it only focuses on monetary measures which may act as a catalyst for people to have two children? The proposed draft of the population control measures lacks empirical validity for a long time as the draft does not deal with any idea of how to balance between population growth and workforce. Now, 53.6% of India’s population is under 29 years of age, and more than one-fourth of India’s population is around 14 years of age or less. If this population is used to accelerate India’s economy, then it will provide a demographic dividend to India. Therefore, India may enter a unique moment in history if it can leverage its demographic dividend to achieve its economic goals.
The proposed draft of the UP government needs to be viewed seriously in accordance with a balanced approach between population support and population control, between demographic dividend and demographic curse, and relationship between poverty and population growth in India. Interestingly, the proposed draft clearly has floated ideas of controlling population with the help of monetary and welfare measures limiting the significance of the youth workforce in India. There will not be enough people to work for the economy. The government will not have enough resources to support a large non-productive aging population and to provide pensions. Controlling population may also lead to de-industrialization as skilled human resources will become costlier due to limited availability.
On the other hand, a direct relationship between poverty and population growth in India is still lacking as the Chinese population deserves to be applauded for being a leading factor for progress and growth. At the same time, the proposed UP government population control draft seems to be an untimely, hasty and politically driven idea as concerned stakeholders and others experts’ views are not taken broadly and has sought public opinions within a very short timeframe.
In conclusion, India’s growing population undoubtedly becomes a matter of concern as it will exceed China by 2030 as per estimation. From these perspectives, a concrete policy at national level is always mandated provided that several factors including economic, social, political, cultural, health etc could be deeply considered. The population control measures need to be put above politics, religion, social norms and cultural-ethos as India’s growing stage of hunger, food crisis and poverty reach an alarming juncture which needs immediate legal attention.
Author is Assistant Professor, MANUU & Project Director- (MRP, ICSSR) Ministry of Education, Government of India. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org