On 11th July, the world celebrated "World Population Day", a day which was started as a dedication to the cause of the alarming population growth globally. On the 11th of July 1987, the globe had reached a milestone in human history, a population of 5 billion people, and the day was dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of population expansion. India, a country that houses 17.7% of the world population and is the second most populated country in the world, stood at 1.39 billion on the anniversary day.
However, India accounts for only 2.4% of the landmass in the world. Consequently, there is immense pressure on the limited natural resources in the country. India is not only trying to feed billions of people, but it is also lagging in terms of developing them. There is a lack of housing space, millions sleep on the streets in rags, the standard of living has barely increased, and the quality of education in public schools is still low. The judiciary is burdened with innumerable criminal cases, while the overwhelming pressure on the Indian healthcare system has become all the more evident in light of the pandemic in India. Every 1 in 5 people in India are severely destitute and, India remains the fifth most polluted country in the world.
There is tremendous pressure on land to fulfil the population's housing, food, and other demands, while drinking water sources are nearly depleted; we are depleting nonrenewable resources to meet the bare minimum needs of our country's population. Despite these efforts, 40 percent of India's population lacks access to safe drinking water, and the income divide is expanding year by year as population statistics rise. Soon, the middle-working-class population in our country will overtake the U.S. population figures as a whole. Despite that, India is nowhere close to achieving a good amount of economic/human development. Thus, controlling the rising population and shifting our focus towards the development of the existing population is the need of the hour.
India has a total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.2, which is concerning when compared to the United Nations' recommendation of a TFR of 2.1 for countries to maintain a sustainable balance, and the reality of the situation is India leading the population charts in second place. What is more absurd about the situation is that a significant chunk of the population is still in the dark about the problem of the population explosion in India.
Hazra Bano is a 47-year-old woman who works as a house help at several apartments in Mumbai. She has two daughters, who are married, and she lives by herself in a small rented room after her second husband left her during the pandemic. When I addressed her about the situation, I questioned if she accepted her daughter's decision if she had no intention of having children of her own. Bano replied similarly to how any other average middle to a lower class person would have answered. "Baccha nahi hoga toh parivaar aage kaisa badhega?(If she does not have a kid, how will the family lineage be carried forward?) Baccha hona toh har aurat ka farz hota hai, baccha hi toh maa-baap ko sambhalta hai buddhape me (To bear a child is a duty for every woman. A child is the backbone of their parents in old age. )
Indeed, people still disregard the overflowing numbers of abandoned old people when they express such a statement. With the increase in technology and better health facilities, the life expectancy rate in India is increasing. Most people retire at 60, but due to a lack of savings and investments, the maximum retired population shifts into dependency on their children and the pension received by the government. As a result, many senior citizens are left to rot in their old age.
Illiteracy, a lack of information about family planning, marriage as a universal institution, polygamy, and women's poor status are all factors contributing to these skyrocketing population numbers. According to research, educated and financially independent women are crucial to population reduction since they are aware of contraception and family planning as well as their careers and finances. India has a large number of unemployed young people. In the wake of low-paid job opportunities, many people turn to crime, beggary and prostitution. Thus, stricter measures to control the growth of population rates and focus on the development of the existing citizenry are of utmost importance.
Although 35 population control measures have been approved in the few years after independence, the reality of the issue is not hidden. During the emergency period in the 1970s, a series of family planning measures were coerced on the public. Forced sterilization took place across the Indian landscape during this period, but it barely touched the tip of the iceberg. Despite many measures to control the rising population, there is little awareness about contraceptives, sterilization and family planning. Birth control pills, condoms, and sex education are still regarded as taboos. In 2007, on the recommendation of Vidya Bharati (a school network run by RSS) general secretary Dina Nath Batra, the then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, removed sex education from the curriculum.
This is, however, not a phenomenon of the past: in 2017, the government issued an advisory for the television channels banning them from airing ads featuring promotions and sales of condoms from 6 am to 10 pm. Creators receiving backlash for producing films or featuring scenes on the themes of contraceptives, sex, and abortion is not unheard of.
To deal with this situation, education and social upliftment of the status of Indian women are the primordial steps. India homes nearly 30 million abandoned children, but the adoption rate is nowhere near. We, as a society, must create better acceptance of adoption practices in India. CARA (Central adoption resource authority) has elaborated on the entire process of adoption in layman terms on its website. Additionally, we must play our role in trying to get over the stigma associated with sex education and contraceptives in our country.
‘Change begins at home; we must educate our children, siblings, or young workers in our vicinity about the importance of family planning and introduce them to sex education. We must not shy away from talking about such matters ourselves, and emphasize providing social security to everyone so that they do not feel apprehension about their future survival. Besides, the government must launch broad initiatives to raise awareness and assure their correct implementation, as well as launch efforts targeted at decreasing the stigma associated with such issues in India.
India will overtake China in terms of population by the year 2030. Thus, to ensure the development of the current population, it is essential to address the population problem in India.
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