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India: The Teatering (or Teetering) Giant
Category: Population | By RFPD, 10-Jun-2013 | Viewed 3532  Comments 0
Photo provided by Reuters. Chennai appears fourth on the list of the most populous cities in India.
The Good News: India's rate of population growth is declining. For decades ending in 1991, 2001 and 2011, annual population growth rates were 2.14, 1.95 and 1.62 percent, respectively. 

The Bad News: Although population growth rate are declining impressively, absolute population addition is still high. Between 2001 and 2011, India's population grew by 181.5 million, from 1.03 billion to 1.21 billion. From 2011 to 2021, it is expected to grow by another 176.5 million, to 1.39 billion. The critical indicator in India's population conundrum may more really be population density. Between 2011 and 2021, population density will increase from 382 to 435 persons per square kilometer, or 14 percent. This will increase the demand on already overtaxed resources, including water, food, education, housing, health, etc. 

The Emerging Scenario: Today, India is adding the largest numbers to its population than any other country in the world, as well as in any time in history. The UN Population Division projects that India will surpass China as the most populous country within 10 to 15 years. Its population is projected to peak at 1.7 billion in 2060. China at its peak in 2025 will have 1.4 billion people. In fact, when China peaks, India will have already surpassed it in population. China's current annual population growth rate of 0.7 percent has fallen most impressively due to its successful management of the population issue. Its growth rate is now on par with most developed countries, and that has improved the quality of life. Life expectancy in China is 74, compared to India at 64 years. Infant mortality in China is 21/1000 births, compared to 53/1000 in India. China has increased its GNI PPP per capita from $2,960 in 2008 to $6,020 in 2011.

The Consequences: Current population growth in India is mainly fueled by unwanted/unplanned/ unintended fertility. Around 26 million children were born in India in the year 2011 and out of this about 5.5 million births have been classified as unplanned or unwanted. Based on findings of the National Family Health Surveys 1, 2 and 3, it is estimated that currently there are around 450 million people out of 1200 million in India who are product of unintended/unwanted pregnancies, and most of them are from the lower economic strata. The consequences of unintended pregnancy are serious, slowing down the process of socio-economic development. It is because unwanted childbearing results in poor physical growth, reduced school performance, diminished concentration in daily tasks, thus impacting work capacity and work output resulting in diminished earning capacity. Also, the impact of unwanted childbearing is reflected in widespread hunger, poverty, unemployment, regressing governance as well as increasing scarcity of basic resources like food, water and space in several parts of India despite concerted developmental efforts since 1991. 

The Resolution: Those who have traveled India have seen the struggle of the general population to achieve a minimal standard of living. Most still live in conditions not unlike their ancestors of 100's of years earlier. Without immediate action to divert the impending flood of unsustainable numbers of more people, the quality of life in India is guaranteed to drop to even lower, deadly levels. The intellectual community including bilateral and philanthropic organizations must rise to reject status quo, and change the current standards of tolerance toward unsustainable growth. Many speak of population stabilization as the essential ingredient in achieving good development and quality of life. As such, Family Planning must be understood and accessible to everyone. Among other measures, gender equality, girl education, vocational training for women are essential. The alternatives are an inhuman choice, and are not acceptable.
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