Let us make an in-depth study of the population problem in India with its solution.
Population Problem in India:
India is one of the densely populated countries of the world. It has to support about 15% of the world population, although its land area is merely 2.4% of the land area of the world.
In 1950-51, India’s population was 361 million. According to 2001 census it was 1,027 million.
Our population has been growing at the rate of 2.2% per annum since independence (1950-51 to 1999-00).
India’s population stood at 1027,015,247 on March 1, 2001. The decennial census of 2001 indicates an addition of 181 mn. people between 1991 and 2001 but the rate of growth in this decade shows the sharpest decline (21.34%) since independence.
The exponential rate of growth of population (annual) in the decades 1991-2001 was 1.9% as against 2.1% the previous decade. But it was still higher than the assumptions regarding from 1.6 to 1.8% made by the planning commission.
The rate of population growth depends on the difference between the birth rate and the death rate. Thus, the population growth experienced in India can largely be explained by variations in birth and death rates.
The death rate continued to fall over the entire plan period. But the birth rate continues to remain high by current standards. As a result there has been a net addition to the size of the population.
A study of India’s demographic trends during the last five decades reveals that the death rate has fallen much faster than the birth rate. The death rate has already fallen to a very low level (viz., 9.6 per thousand). There is no scope for reducing it further. But the birth rate continues to be high by current standards. Therefore, in future India’s population will be a function of birth rate alone.
The Nature of India’s Population Problem:
The number of people which a country can support largely, if not entirely, depends upon its existing natural resources, the methods it uses in production, and the efficiency of labour which affects labour productivity. It appears from current standards that India should have about 400 million in 2002 instead of 1,027 million.
This excess population is itself a symptom of over-population. This problem is becoming more and more acute day by day due to rapidly increasing population— by about 22 million persons a year. So, India is over-populated.
However, a small minority of people see that India is not really over-populated because it is a vast country with plenty of natural resources. These resources have not been fully used as yet. They express the view that, if all the resources are fully employed, India can maintain a larger population than what it is having now and in much greater comfort.
There is some truth in this argument. But one cannot deny the following facts:
(a) The population of India is very large by current standards.
(b) The rate of increase of population is also high — about 2.22% per year, in absolute form this comes to nearly 22 million persons per annum.
(c) Even the existing population is not being fed, clothed and housed properly; most people are living in miserable conditions.
(d) The modest increase in national income under planned economic development is being eaten up by the increase in population. As a result, the per capita income growth has almost reached a vanishing point.
(e) The need of controlling population is urgent and pressing so that the existing people may have an improved standard of living.
There is no denying the fact that there were too many people now in India. However, the real problem is not the present large size of the population but the rate at which the size of population! is increasing every year? India can progress if— and only if—the continuous and huge increase in population is held in check.
Solving the Population Problem:
One may suggest two measures for solving India’s population problem.
1. Birth control and
2. Accelerating the rate of growth of the economy.
The control of births seems to be the most common method of checking the growth of population. However, because of the low level of literacy and lack of general interest, family planning has not achieved much success so far.
Rapid economic development will surely answer our needs. In fact, China has achieved rapid growth in spite of population growth. People must be made to feel that their poverty is removable and they can enjoy all those things which the higher income groups enjoy. Then only will they start working hard. Furthermore, they will adopt a small family norm, if they realise that a large number of children will definitely keep them poor and make them poorer.
But according to the theory of demographic transition in the initial stages there is a possibility for the birth rate to rise or, at least, to remain constant, but the death rate is bound to decline. If this happens, then birth control will have to go hand-in-hand with the acceleration of the rate of economic growth.
India’s rapidly growing population is the most serious obstacle to her economic development. It is not possible to reduce the existing size of population. But it is, of course, possible to slowdown the rate at which population is increasing.
The overall development of the country and rise in per capita income can go a long way in reducing the rate of increase in population. But the birth rate will have to be reduced at the same time. The Government is using both the methods at present. However, India is a large country and most people who live in backward areas are illiterate and ignorant. Naturally, it will take time to make the Governments effort bear fruit.
In short, the wide variations in growth rate, literacy level and sex ratio would have to be taken into account in formulating new strategies to stabilising India’s population in the next for decades.