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India’s Population Growth: Myth or Reality

The population of India grew to 131 crores in 2015-16, against 38 crores in 1950-51, a little over three times increase, prompting many politicians and economists to say that India will not be in a position to feed and take care of the increasing population. Their argument seems to be based on the  Malthusian theory propounded in 18th century.  But our leaders forgot that the food grain production went up by five times during the same period. According to the government data, against 50.82 million tonnes of food grain production in 1950-51, India produced 252.22 million tonnes in 2015-16, a five-time increase in 65 years, more than the country’s food requirement. The higher production of food grains along with tremendous development in all other fields opening new avenues of employment has proved the Quranic message that it is Allah, the Almighty, who provides for everybody, the parents and their children. And hence, parents need not kill their children for fear of   poverty or prevent birth by using modern medical technology.

Syed Khalique Ahmed

NEW DELHI—With the approaching assembly elections, the Uttar Pradesh government has come out with a 40-page Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilisation, and Welfare) Bill, 2021, or in short UP Population Policy-2021, proposing the two-child norm. It also incentivizes public servants and others to follow the “one-child” norm. 

The CM announced the policy after the UP Law Commission passed a Draft Bill on population control. The Commission has uploaded the Draft Bill on its website, inviting suggestions and objections from the public until July 19. The Draft Bill threatens to punish the violators by banning them from contesting local bodies elections, applying for government jobs, and getting government subsidies. But the question is: Will the UP government provide jobs and other government facilities to those who fulfil the two-child norm?

A few weeks ago, the Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma also enforced a two-child policy in his state intending to control the population, but his statements on the issue indicated that the action is more intended towards “immigrant Muslim community”, thus giving a communal touch to a social issue. But both UP and Assam’s chief ministers say that the population regulation was necessary because population growth was an obstacle to development.

Half of UP BJP MLAs have more than two children

There is no national child policy. UP is the second state after Assam that has declared a two-child policy. Surprisingly, as many as 397 current MLAs in UP have more than two children. According to the information available on the UP state assembly website, 152 MLAs out of 304 BJP MLAs in UP have three or more children. If the two-child norm is extended to the legislative assembly, exactly half of the BJP MLAs in UP will stand disqualified immediately. According to the information posted on the website, one of the BJP MLAs has eight children and another seven children. There are eight MLAs with six children, and 15 others are having five children each. And 44 BJP MLAs are parents of four children each, and 83 have three children each.

Many other states have not announced a child policy, but they have disqualified people from contesting local bodies elections if they have more than two children. Among them are Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Gujarat.

However, there is no ban on people contesting state assembly and Parliamentary elections if they have more than two children.

Policy aims to achieve “population balance among communities” 

While releasing his government’s population policy on July 11, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced that “attempts would be made to ensure a population balance among various communities in the state.” This sentence of the CM needs to be read between the lines as the primary objective of the policy is to attain a “population balance among various communities” in the state. Whenever any mention is made of the population growth in India, every participant in a debate generally points his finger towards Muslims as if Muslims are responsible for the population growth of the country. And Muslims are also the target of attack in any debate about bigamy or polygamy. However, the evidence available with the government does not support the stereotype thesis about the community.

 UP implementing RSS policy on population

But what the UP government is doing when the UP assembly elections are approaching fast is not an independent policy of the state government. The UP population policy announced just a few months before the February 2022 assembly polls is certainly going to raise the political heat, and it is likely to polarize the majority community in favour of the BJP. Controversial BJP MLA Sangeet Som has given a communal twist to the issue by accusing the Muslim religious leaders of opposing the population control initiatives. “Producing more children is not the only gift of Allah. There are also other gifts of Allah,” he said. Whatever may be the political objective of Yogi Adityanath behind the announcement of a new population policy, it is nothing but an old RSS agenda. RSS chief Mohanrao Bhagwat clearly stated its plan on the population at the end of a three-day conference on the theme of “India of the Future: RSS Viewpoint” from September 17 to 19, 2018. It was held in the Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi.

The session of September 19 was reserved for questions from the audience to know the RSS viewpoint on various national issues. Bhagwat said that the RSS favoured controlling the population as, according to Bhagwat, it is difficult for the nation to feed the increasing population and arrange adequate resources for them. He used the same words of achieving “population balance among various communities” that have been used by Adityanath. Like Adityanath, Bhagwat also argued to implement the policy in all the classes and sections. Holding the increasing population responsible for illiteracy and poverty, Bhagwat advocated for a 50-year plan to stabilize the population. Another reason for a policy to maintain population balance, he said, was that the birth rate or fertility rate among Hindus had come down compared to other communities. Bhagwat’s statement means that the Hindus would lose the advantage of numbers over other religious communities, and this might create political problems in the long run. That may be the reason why he is talking of “balance of population,” and Yogi Adityanath is speaking of the same thing. The UP government, it appears, is all set to implement the RSS policy on population.

 VHP supports UP policy, opposes incentivizing the one-child  norm 

Meanwhile, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), or the World Hindu Council, has objected to UP’s Population Bill, particularly about Sections 5, 6(2), and 7 of the Bill that incentivizes public servants and others to have one child in the family. VHP’s acting president Alok Kumar argues that “in the case of Uttar Pradesh, the one-child policy is likely to lead to a further imbalance between different communities because they are known to respond differently to the incentives and disincentives related to family planning and contraception.” Citing the examples of Assam and Kerala where, he said, the total fertility (TFR) of Hindus was far below the replacement rate of 2.1 per thousand of population, but that of Muslims was 3.16 in Assam and 2.33 in Kerala. In a letter to the UP Law Commission, Kumar has said that “one of the communities in Assam and Kerala has entered the contraction phase, while the other is still expanding.” So, RSS and VHP, while supporting to curb population growth, want to maintain a population balance between different communities, especially between Hindus and Muslims, to prevent any potential political, demographic changes.

Nitish opposes law to control population 

Reacting to Bihar BJP leader Giriraj Singh’s demand for a policy on population control in Bihar similar to the one in UP, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said he was not in favour of any law to control the population.

BJP’s Rakesh Sinha, Ravi Kishan to introduce private members Bill to demand population regulation law   

BJP Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha and BJP’s Gorakhpur Ravi Kishan are likely to introduce private members’ bill, demanding a population control policy in the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament, which is scheduled to begin on July 19 and conclude on August 13. Sinha, who is considered an RSS ideologue, had introduced The Population Control Bill2019 (also called The Population Regulation Bill2019) in Rajya Sabha in July 2019. The Bill aims to control the population of India. As many as 125 MPs signed the Bill; it is yet to become an Act of law. It is in this connection Sinha is likely to raise the issue again in Parliament. One will be surprised to know that Ravi Kishan himself is the father of four children. 

Muslim leaders term the Bill “unconstitutional,” “violation of human rights” 

Meanwhile, Muslim political and religious leaders have also reacted to the UP Population Bill. 

Welfare Party of India President Dr. Syed Qasim Rasool Ilyas said, “the proposed Bill in UP is constitutionally and legally questionable.” 

“The intention is to create noise before the assembly polls, which sharpen communal polarization and deepen prejudice and bigotry in society,” he said. 

All India Muslim Majlis Mushawarat President Navaid Hamid said it was an attack on different identities. It was intended to deny government facilities like subsidized ration and government jobs to the poor, Dalits, and tribals, most of whom were from the Hindu community. Moreover, family planning will not succeed unless there is educational and economic empowerment. 

 World-renowned Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband has termed the UP Population Bill a “violation of human rights.” Darul Uloom’s rector, Mufti Abul Qasim Nomani, has questioned the logic behind denying government facilities to those having more than two children. 

Significant Decline in fertility rate in India 

While India’s population increased from 36 crores in 1951 to 121.02 crores in 2011, government reports reveal a significant decline in the fertility rate in the country. Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, at a conference on February 20, 2021, said that the total fertility rate (TFR, meaning children per woman) in India on the national level has declined from 6.0 in 1951 to 3.4 in 1994 and 2.2 in 2015-16, a very significant decline. He said that TFR is further expected to decrease from 2.2 to 1.73 during 2021-35 as per Population Projection for India and States Report 2011-2036, released in July 2020.

Muslim women’s fertility rate falling faster than among Hindu women : NFHS 

While Hindutva groups are nervous about demographic changes likely to take place in favour of Muslims, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data indicate the fertility rate among Muslim women is falling faster than among Hindus. According to Census data, when the Muslim fertility rate was 4.4 in 1991, the Muslim population grew by 32.88 percent. And when the Muslim TFR came down to 3.4 in 2011, the Muslim population’s decadal growth rate also came down to 24.6 percent, thus negating the baseless theory of the Hindutva brigade that the Muslim population is rising fastest in India and Muslims would overtake Hindus in decades to come.

According to NHFS data, the difference between Hindu-Muslim TFR was 1.1 children in 1992-93, which meant that Muslim women were likely to give birth to 33 percent more children than their Hindu counterparts. But Muslim TFR came down to 0.5 in 2015-16, showing that Muslim women, on average, gave birth to 23.8 percent more children than Hindu women.

Even in Uttar Pradesh, the Muslim fertility rate has come down drastically between 2001 and 2011. According to Census data estimates, Muslim TFR had fallen from 4.8 in 2001 to 2.9 in 2011, showing a decline of 1.9 in a decade. At the same time, the Hindu TFR in UP declined from 4.1 to 2.6, indicating a drop of 1.5 during the corresponding period. So, the TFR gap between Hindus and Muslims that was 0.7 in 2001 narrowed down to 0.3. It may be noted here that this drop in the TFR of Muslim women did not occur due to any coercive measures adopted by the state government. Instead, if media reports are to be believed, this happened due to an increase in the marriage age of Muslim women and the gap between successive children.

 In recent media interviews, former Chief Election Commission Syed Yaqoob Quraishi, who has done a lot of research on demographic transition in India, said it was the region that influences fertility rate in India, not the religion as was being projected by Hindutva groups. According to Quraishi, the Muslim fertility rate in India’s Southern states is much lower than Hindu fertility rates in any of the north Indian states: UP, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh. If Quraishi is to be believed, Muslims are closer to Hindus of their respective region in their socio-economic behaviour, which is also reflected in the population growth. Quraishi’s views are supported by Dildar Khan, a researcher at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development, Chandigarh. In a survey conducted in 1990, Khan found that the population growth had nothing to do with religion. Instead, it is linked to the socio-economic background and education level of the communities. He concluded that the birth rate among the Muslim upper caste in the Hindi belt was almost equal to the Hindu upper caste. The birth rate in the lower strata of the Muslim population was almost at par with the lower strata of the Hindu community, for example, Dalits and others.

According to Quraishi, India’s population is likely to stabilize at about 1.7 billion by 2101, with the Muslims accounting for about 320 million, which is about 17 percent of the total population of India, entirely different from the propaganda that Muslims are going to become a majority in India by the end of the current century.

Is population growth an obstacle to development? Malthusian theory proved wrong    

The population regulation laws have been brought by both the UP and Assam governments on the premise that overpopulation is an obstruction to national development. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat also stated the same thing during a question-answer session at Vigyan Bhawan on September 19, 2018. This argument is based on the theory propounded by 18th-century British-Christian economist Thomas Malthus. The Malthusian theory states that food production will not be in proportion to the food demand of the increase in human population, resulting in starvation. This debate continues even now. But Malthusian theory was challenged by several economists, including Karl Marx. Marx said that starvation was not due to population growth but due to unequal distribution of wealth and its accumulation by capitalists. French sociologist E. Dupreel, in 1977, challenged Malthusian theory and said that increase in population would help fast innovation and development to solve problems. Though we may ideologically differ with Marx on many issues, his observation on the concentration of wealth in a few hands causing poverty and starvation sounds logical. According to the 2018 Global Wealth Report of the Credit Suisse Research Institute, 77.4 percent of India’s wealth is in the hands of 10 percent of its population. According to the same report, the richest one percent, including corporates and top industrialists, control more than 51 percent of India’s wealth. Many contemporary economists interpret the accumulation of wealth in few families as the primary reason for widespread poverty in the country, but their arguments are dismissed as the voice in the wilderness by the powers-that-be under the influence of corporates who finance political parties in elections. So, the thesis that increasing population leads to poverty and is an impediment to development taken has no scientific basis.

Green Revolution made India a food grain exporter

Let’s also look at Bhagwat’s argument and Thomas Malthus that providing food to an increasing population will not be possible. While we can ignore the concerns of Malthus as he lived during the period when agriculture technology had not developed, and fertilizers, etc., were not discovered. Consequently, the food production per hectare was significantly less the world over. However, Bhagwat, Yogi, and Himanta Biswa Sarma live in a time when agriculture technology has reached its peak. Food production has increased more than five times what it was in 1947, thanks to the Green Revolution and White Revolution that made India self-dependent in food requirements and a major exporter of food, milk, and milk products all over the globe. But, even after export, there are so much surplus food grains for which we don’t have enough storage houses.

Consequently, a large amount of it gets rotten, even in Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns because of the poor quality of godowns. According to the Minister of Consumer Affairs, about 62,000 tonnes of food grain was damaged in FCI godowns between 2011 and 2017, and 8600 tonnes were lost in 2016-17. But this is only a fraction of the problem because a vast quantity also gets spoiled because farmers and private traders don’t have proper and sufficient storage facilities. So, if anybody in India goes without food, in that case, it is not because of low production in the country but because of weakness in distribution and the government’s apathy towards the poor and the needy.

Five-time increase in food production from 1950 to 2015

Government of India data (Agricultural Statistics at a Glance 2016) shows that food grain production has increased from 50.82 million tonnes in 1950-51 to 252.22 million tonnes in 2015-16, a five-time increase in 65 years. Yield per hectare also increased from 522 kilograms in 1950-51 to 2,056 kilograms in 2015-16. 

The data shows that while the population of India grew to 131 crores in 2015-16, against 38 crores in 1950-51, a little over three times increase. But during the same period, food grain production went up by five times. So, the production of food grains in India is much more than the demand for consumption. 

Increase in food production proves Allah’s revelation in the Quran

This growth of agricultural output proves the command of Allah in Surah Bani Israel in The Holy Quran that was revealed to Prophet Muhammed more than 1400 years ago when technology was in its very primitive stage. And it was the Dark Ages period for Europe, as mentioned in world history. In the Quran, the Almighty Allah ordered the people not to kill their children for fear of poverty because it is Allah who provides sustenance for everyone: parents and their children. 

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin,” declared Allah in Surah Bani Israel (Chapter 17, Ayat Number 31). This command was revealed because many people in Arabia used to kill their newborns due to their poverty and were worried about how they would feed and clothe them when they have no sufficient means of livelihood. And Arabs did kill their children after birth because there were no contraceptives and technology to prevent fertilization or terminate a pregnancy. So, it is a general command for all people, not exclusively for Muslims, and it is for all times to come.

So, when India’s population increased, the production of food grains also went up to meet the requirement of the growing population. 

Trade, business, and employment have also increased tremendously, and the quality of life of people in every parameter has also improved enormously, directly proving that Allah, who gives birth, also takes care of the need of His creatures, provided a proper and reasonable effort is made as agriculture and animal husbandry scientists in India did to boost agriculture and milk production.

Bhagwat and Yogi are religious persons and must have faith in the Almighty who provides for every need of His creature. Therefore, it is surprising how they forgot their Creator while advocating for a law to regulate the population when the country has tremendous resources to meet the requirements of its people.

India must learn from Chinese experience

India must also learn from the experiment of other countries. China, our neighbour, imposed a one-child policy to curb its growing population under Communist influence. The higher population helped China emerge as one of the world’s biggest economies, and the US and Europe are feeling threatened by it. It was the native workforce that helped China to boost its economy and military power. The US and Europeans are dependent on foreign workers, which is costly and cannot beat China. All this because of the mindless curb on population growth in US and European societies under the influence of retrogressive policies and its highly selfish attitude. They felt it a burden to look after their own children. China now feels that it was wrong to curb the population. So, they have reversed it: first to two-child policy and now allowed families to go for three children.

Like China, the population is also India’s advantage. India today is the biggest provider of skilled workforce to the entire world, mainly the US and the Middle East countries, and they send back substantial foreign exchange for the country. India will be making the biggest folly if it goes with implementing population curb regulations throughout the country as being envisaged by the current BJP government at the national level and state governments at the provincial level. Such a retrogressive measure would undoubtedly leave us with no sufficient workforce. And what will happen to our economy in such a situation can be anybody’s guess.

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