The growth of our population at the rate of 2% is really alarming. Every minute we have 45-50 additional mouths to feed. If this baby-boom continues, our country will soon be the most populated in the world and China will be relegated to the second position. This baby-boom reduces the quality and standard of living and increases the problems of unemployment, housing, health, family-welfare and education, etc. The problem becomes all the more worse because of illiteracy, ignorance, superstitions, religious and communal prejudices. Most of the people in villages and slums in the cities are totally ignorant of the evil consequences of a large and unplanned family. Owing to lack of proper awareness and age old traditions, coupled with superstitions, people in villages, believe in divine dispensation in the molding of their families and refuse to plan them. Small farmers and agricultural laborers, etc. have large and unplanned families because of the economic value of the children. The more the children, the more hands there are to earn for the family.
To achieve the desired aims and objectives in regard to population control and family planning, the status of women should be improved. They should be well educated and informed and economically independent, so that they can have control over their fertility. It is a fact that female literacy has a strong correlation with higher age of marriage and lower birth rate. Birth rate can be brought down by 12 per thousand if the mean age of marriage is raised to 20 years among women. It has been observed that seven years of schooling leads to a three-and-a-half-year delay in marriage and also lower infant mortality. Late marriages should be encouraged and child marriages should be dealt with strictly. Marriage registration should be made compulsory and no marriage should be considered legal without it. ‘Two children’ norm should be strictly implemented and there should not be any violation of it.
Unless population is controlled, neither can poverty be eliminated nor the living standard be improved. Under the Five Year Plans, more funds should be allocated for family planning, mother and child care and birth control programmes. More and more sterilization facilities, coupled with increased monetary incentives, should be provided in villages and towns. Couples accepting family planning with one or two daughters should be provided proper insurance cover, ensuring their welfare in old age. Security and protection in old age should be ensured to such couples by the government and the society. A strong system of incentives and disincentives should be adopted to check this explosion in our population.
Poverty and ignorance are at once both the cause and effect of our rapid expansion of population. Along with rapid and proper economic development there should be proper awareness among the people about the desirability of family planning. A mass propaganda and education programme should be launched through the press, T.V., and radio, etc. to enlighten the masses regarding the many advantages of family planning, birth-control and late marriages. If the present baby-boom does not stop in the near future, it will be disastrous for the country. It is better that people use more and more means of sterilization, loops, condoms, and oral contraceptives, etc. to check the menace of rapid growth in population before it is too late. We can learn much in this respect from countries such as China and Sri Lanka, etc.
More emphasis should be laid on employment, women’s education, poverty alleviation and birth-control schemes. It is through these means alone that the concept of a small family can be popularized.
Poverty arising out of unemployment and underemployment is the major cause of large families. Family planning and economic development have a strong positive association. One cannot be achieved without the other. They are interlinked and inter-dependent. The experience of the developed countries in this connection is before us. In poor families, an additional child is considered economically desirable, because he or she can help in increasing the income of a family to some extent.
The moot question is why India has so far failed in its population control programme and family welfare schemes. The policy-makers, leaders, demographers, and health and family experts should come together and seriously ponder over the matter. We should review our population control programme so as to give it new direction and dimension with the active involvement of the various governmental, private and corporate agencies. Even small countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have managed to reduce the total fertility rate faster than India. Every year there is an increase of 18 million in our population, which is equivalent to the total population of Australia. All the other states in India should try to emulate Kerala, where fertility rate total is just 1.8. Our total fertility rate at present is 2.9, which needs to be reduced by one percent point. Family planning and welfare programmes need to be turned into a people’s movement. It is an established fact that this explosion in our population is the root cause of poverty, social tensions, urban squalor, crime, environment degradation and ever-increasing unemployment.