As India too is heading towards the problem of aging population, the check in population to below two children would in a few years lead to serious demographic disbalance.
No such condition of two-child has been made mandatory for those contesting Assembly and Parliament elections, which are held on the party basis.
PATNA—Without questioning the political motive and timing of the new population policy of the Bharatiya Janata Party one can easily say that it is based on outdated views and may in the long run compound the problem rather than solve it. It has come just two months after China gave up the two-child policy and adopted a three-child formula.
Ironically, India is going for two-child policy when the population is showing signs of stabilising and the country is being appreciated for having one of the youngest populations in the world – more than half of Indians are below 30 years.
Besides, India is now an attractive destination for foreign investors and corporate houses simply because it has a huge middle-class market of 25 to 30 crore. For argument’s sake, just imagine: what would have happened had India’s population remained stagnant at 33 crore as at the time of Independence. In that case it would have a small middle-class market of six to seven crore and it would not have boasted about its big number. The MNCs, for which we are prepared to open all the gates, would not have deemed it fit to come in such a big way. Not only that, our leaders would not have made tall claims about the rich and young human resources. This is in total contrast to the developed world which is grappling with the aging problem rather than population explosion.
The policy of forcible check in population was tried and tested more than 45 years back during Emergency by the then Indira Gandhi government and had to be abandoned. That was the time when the Total Fertility Rate was almost two and a half times more than now. If it was 5.9 in 1951; it came down to only 5.23 in 1975, but in the next 25 years, that is by 2000, it came down to 3.346 and in 2021 it is 2.179.
Any further reduction would have serious consequences on the demographic balance of the country.
The haste with which the BJP governments in Assam, where the Total Fertility Rate is only 1.9, which is less than the replacement level (2.1), and Uttar Pradesh (TFR is 2.7) as well as the Centre are going about only expose the intellectual bankruptcy of those who are championing its cause. They have not done their homework before embarking on this policy.
If they are thinking that the move would electorally benefit the party in coming elections in Uttar Pradesh and other states, they are perhaps living in Fool’s Paradise. That is why one of the alliance partners, the Janata Dal-United and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which is ideologically very close to the BJP, are cautioning it.
If the benefits of government schemes, jobs and the opportunity to contest the rural and urban local bodies poll are denied to those having more than two children then the Dalits and other backward castes would be the hardest hit. A number of such studies are available as several states have adopted this policy in the past.
Curiously, no such condition of two-child has been made mandatory for those contesting Assembly and Parliament elections, which are held on the party basis. This is simply because many ruling BJP MPs and MLAs have more than two and three children and they would not let this law be made for them. So, the weakest section will not only become economically disempowered but would also lose an opportunity to become empowered at the grassroots level.
There is no denying the fact that the two centuries old Malthusian Theory that the world’s population would rise in geometrical proportion had been proved wrong. Instead, the world is facing the problem of aging and several countries of Europe and Japan are even fearing a drop in population. Some countries are giving incentives to increase the birth rate.
China, which adopted the policy of one-child in 1979, knows its disastrous impact which not only caused the huge problem of population disequilibrium, but also of serious gender disbalance. The preference for a male child wreaked havoc in the society. In 2016 it introduced a two-child policy and in May 2021 three-child policy was adopted.
It needs to be mentioned that the population was rising not just because of more child-birth, but also because of the improvement in medical science. The life expectancy which was around 32 years at the time of independence of India has risen to more than double, that is 69. This is happening not only in India, but many Third World countries too. In the developed countries this had happened much earlier.
The huge fall in death rate, thanks to better medical treatment and eradication of deadly epidemics has prolonged the life span which ultimately played a big role in the jump in population in Indian and other developing countries.
As India too is heading towards the problem of an aging population, the check in population to below two children would in a few years lead to serious demographic disbalance. There would be much less young population and the number of those above 60 would rise astronomically. Thus, there would be a huge army of retired people and in comparison the number of young work-force would be considerably reduced. In simple language there would be more pensioners than earners. It should also be understood that density-wise, in Bangladesh 2,919 people live per square mile, Taiwan 1,707, South Korea 1,326 and India 1,098.
In the 21st century world Thomas Malthus has once again been proved wrong as food-grain production is not rising in arithmetical ratio as he had predicted. Instead, a country like the United States alone can produce so much food-grains that it can feed the entire global population of 800 crore. Yet thousands of people die of starvation every year in the vicinity of the US alone – not to speak of elsewhere in the world. This is simply because of the policies adopted by our leaders and planners.
Similarly, India with 135 crore population now grows enough food to feed its entire population. Seven decades back we were not even able to grow enough for 33 crore people. If people are dying today, it is just because of mismanagement and corruption. The big population is just an excuse for our rulers.
*The writer is a veteran journalist based at Patna, India.