Is India Taking Calculated Risks by Ignoring Population Growth?

India's population growth poses challenges despite recent progress and requires focused attention.

2 mins read
Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India [ Photo: Varun Gaba /Unsplash]

World Population Day, observed on July 11th, has largely gone unnoticed in India, despite the country recently surpassing China to become the most populated in the world. The population issue in India remains a serious concern, with population numbers continuing to rise, albeit at a slightly slower rate compared to the past.

Alarming Statistics: The following figures highlight the severity of the population issue in India. The population density in India, currently at 464 people per square kilometer, has been steadily increasing and is now the highest among all countries worldwide. In comparison, China’s population density stands at 153 people per square kilometer, the USA at 36, and Japan at 347.

Although India has made significant progress in areas such as food production, housing, road infrastructure, and overall economic growth, a considerable portion of the population still lives below the poverty line, while others hover just above it. This discrepancy is due to the economic growth not keeping pace with population growth, undermining the country’s ability to ensure a minimum standard of living for all its people.

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Given that the land area remains unchanged, it is evident that India needs to implement strong measures to curb population growth. The consequences of a population level reaching 2 billion from the current 1.42 billion in the next few decades could be dire if effective measures are not taken.

High Birth Rate: While some argue that the decline in the death rate and birth rate is a positive sign, it is still insufficient considering the gravity of the population issue. Birth rates in India remain high, contributing to further population growth.

Youth Population Advantage or Employment Challenge? Over 45% of India’s population is comprised of youths, leading some to argue that India can benefit from a demographic dividend by utilizing this young workforce. However, generating mass-scale employment is a complex task, particularly with the need for automation and technological advancements like artificial intelligence, which reduce the demand for labor. Consequently, providing sufficient employment opportunities for the large youth population in India is extremely challenging.

Ageing Population Concern: There are concerns that a rapid reduction in birth rates will result in a high proportion of ageing population and a lack of workforce. While the Chinese government’s previous one-child policy is cited as a cautionary example, India’s high population level suggests that the economy can still thrive with a significantly smaller population. Additionally, advancements in medical science may enable senior citizens to engage in productive work, mitigating the burden of an ageing population.

India’s Dense Population and Migration: With its dense population, India is likely to witness significant migration of its people to other countries. This trend is already evident, raising questions about how other nations perceive this situation.

India’s Commitment to Population Policy: Since India gained independence in 1947, population control has been a topic of discussion. India was a pioneer in implementing sterilization for family planning and introduced family planning as part of its health policy. However, family planning efforts faced setbacks during the national emergency in 1975 when forced sterilizations generated anger and frustration. Subsequent governments shifted focus away from population control.

During the past nine years, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has made progress in various areas. However, Mr. Modi has rarely addressed the population issue, possibly believing that family planning can only be successful if implemented voluntarily and through informed choices.

N.S.Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause and to promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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