Coercion & Population

Fertility rates are being   pulled down in India by "Coercive" population—control policies, such as Assam's decision to deny government jobs to people with two or more children. They are impeding the progress of socio-economically weaker people, and are increasing selective female abortions. Seven states, viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharasthtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, have laws barring couples with more than two children, from contesting local body elections. Incidentally Assam Chief Minister has eight siblings. Perhaps they won't need government jobs. Disincentives are disempowering women, and marginilising communities. The 2018 Economic Survey had referred to the "Son preference", which has resulted in the abortion of an estimated 21 million unwanted girls in India, almost every year. Government employees are allowed maternity leave and childcare only up to two children. Under the Janani Sishuraksha Yojana the central government pays monetary incentives to pregnant women, except those who already have two children. The National Health Survey (2015-16) had found that only about 70% of women in India, want two or fewer children.

During the Emergency days Sanjay Gandhi became the synonym with coercive methods of population control. In truth India is still in dilemma as to how to stabilise population at a time when a large number of countries are facing decline in population growth. Half-hearted awareness campaign to popularise population control policy is no answer to burgeoning population rise. Lack of education is the major reason why the poor don't bother about population policy measures. Sanjay era cannot come back but semi-coercive methods that are now applied are no less hazardous. The government is not thinking something novel to counter the menace—unlimited population growth.

The global population will add 2 billion in the next three decades, closing in on the 10-billion milestone by 2050, the UN said. India, projected to overtake China, will lead the charge.

A newly released report by the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) titled 'The World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights' estimates that a mind-boggling 9.7 billion people will inhabit the Earth by 2050, an increase of two billion from now.

Nine countries are projected to be responsible for over the half of that surge. Leading the way is India, which is projected to add 273 million to already massive 1.37 billion population and overtake China, whose population is expected to shrink by 31.4 million between 2019 and 2050. China's population will continue to dwindle and is set to reach 1.1 billion by 2100, while India is expected to have 1.4 billion inhabitants by that time.

Runner-up Nigeria is not lagging far behind, and is expected to add 200 million people by 2050. Pakistan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, and the US are the other seven countries that will be driving the world population growth in the next 30 years, according to the report.

But the biggest jump in population size will happen in sub-Saharan Africa, where it will grow two-fold by 2050, a development that might further strain the fragile social systems of the countries.

"Many of the fastest growing populations are in the poorest countries, where population growth brings additional challenges," DESA Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin said in a press release Monday.

Although the figures are stunning, population growth is slowing and is expected to come to almost a standstill. At the moment, the average number of births per woman is 2.5, but by 2050 it is projected to drop to 2.2, putting the world on the brink of population decline. A rate of 2.1 births per woman is considered to be barely enough to sustain the population, which is expected to reach its maximum by the end of the century at 11 billion.

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Vol. 52, No. 36, Mar 8 - 14, 2020