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Essay on the Population Problem in India

Essay Contents:

  1. Essay on the Introduction to Population Problem in India
  2. Essay on Economic Development and Population Control
  3. Essay on the Causes of Rapid Population Growth
  4. Essay on Population Control
  5. Essay on Population and Economic Development
  6. Essay on the Theory of Demographic Transition
  7. Essay on Population Policy

Essay # 1. Introduction to the Population Problem in India:

India is the second largest populated country in the world with the total population estimated at present at more than 94.5 crores. Whereas, China with about 20 per cent of the world’s population has about 7 per cent of the land areas, India has got only 2.4 per cent of the total land areas to feed about 16 per cent of the total population of the world.

Nature of Population Problem:

Some of salient features of India’s population problem can be summarised as follows:

(i) India has a large population base. The density of population is very high and the population is projected to increase further in future.

(ii) Increase the growth rate of population has been caused by the persistence of high fertility and declining mortality.

(iii) As a result of the persistence of high birth rate and low death rate the dependency ratio in the economy has been very high.

(iv) In spite of the growing industrialisation of the economy, about 74.3 per cent population still lives in villages. It is indicative of the overall low productivity.

(v) The proportion of women in the total population has been gradually falling.

(vi) The quality of human capital in the country is very poor. About two-thirds of the total population is illiterate and the productivity of the Indian labour is very low as compared with productivity of the labour in the developed countries.

Essay # 2. Economic Development and Population Control:

Demographers of the world have suggested different measures to arrest the growth of population. Among these measures, economic development is regarded as an effective method of population control. “Development is the best contraceptive” was the slogan raised by the World Population Conference held in 1974 in Bucharest. Many European countries have contained the growth of their population through economic development.

In India, however, things are different. European model of economic development to control population cannot be employed in India. It cannot be an effective and practicable method of population control.

While in the western countries the population increased at a slow pace without disturbing the equilibrium between the natural resources and population; in India, it has registered a high rate of growth and. thus, retarded the process of economic growth. Similarly, the western countries took undue long time to bring the death rate to a low level; in India, there has been sharp decline in the death rate. High birth rate and rapid fall in the death rate has led to sudden population explosion and, thus retarded economic development.

According to a World Bank Study, “Developing countries are like long distance runners. In their race against time to eliminate poverty, rapid population growth is an additional burden, which regardless of their inherent strengths, slows them down.” In India, the first and foremost problem is how to achieve economic development before formulating a strategy for population control.

Population and Economic Development:

Economists, demographers and scientists hold different viewpoints as regards the relationship between population and economic growth. While some of the thinkers hold the view that population is an engine of economic development and it promotes economic development, others opine that population retards it.

The protagonists of the growth economics believe that population is an important determinant of economic growth. They treat population as ‘human capital’ which helps in the proper exploitation of natural resources, and thus raises the production potential of a country. Large population, if gets suitable job opportunities, can raise the level of domestic output.

Population also creates demand for goods and services, which in turn determines the size of market level of investment, output and employment. Prof. Nurkse is of the opinion that even if with country suffers from the problem of disguised unemployment, it should not be a cause of anxiety because the disguised labour force has concealed saving potential.

By shifting the disguised labour force to some construction activity, the concealed potential saving could be converted into real saving. Thus, population stimulates the level of capital formation which is a pre-condition to economic growth.

However, in case of India, the situation is quite different.

Instead of promoting economic development, population has retarded it as would be clear from the following discussion:

(1) Rising population has largely offset increase in production both of agricultural and industrial goods; as a result, the per capita income is rising at slow pace. While the national income during the last 45 years has increased at an average annual rate of 4.2 per cent, the per capita income has risen at the rate of 2.0 per cent per annum.

(2) Rising population leads to an increase in consumption expenditure. A large part of the public expenditure has to be allocated for providing basic amenities of life and, therefore, very limited resources remain available for development projects.

(3) As a consequence of growing population, the pressure of population on land in increasing. There has been a sharp decline in the land man ratio. The per capital availability of the cultivable land which was 0.89 hectare in 1950 has come down to 0.34 hectare in 1994-95. The size of agricultural holdings has also decreased and it has adversely affected the farm productivity.

(4) With increase in population the per capita availability of food also declines. As against the minimum intake of food grains of 850-900 grams per individual per day, the availability of per capita food grains in India in 1997 was about 495 grams per day. In India, about 1 million children fall victim of malnutrition.

(5) Rising population leads to overcrowding, growth of slums, frequent traffic jams and sanitary problems. High rate of population growth disturbs the ecological balance, and thus adversely affects environment. According to an estimate, by the end of this century the country will need about 400 lakh new houses and repairs to about 190 lakh houses. The density of population is expected to rise from 274 per sq. km in 1991 to 418 per sq. km by 2,000 A.D.

(6) Rising population worsens the unemployment problem. The aggregate labour force in India is expected to rise from 213 million in 1921 to 1,000 million in 2000 AD. It would be very difficult for the country to create employment opportunities for such a large force. The number of unemployed persons has gone up from 40 lakhs in 1951 to about 198 lakhs in January, 1997.

(7) Population growth, through increased consumption of energy resources, aggravates the energy crisis. If each family has to use 40 watt electric bulbs, we shall have to put up new 259 MW power stations every three months.

(8) As a consequence of growing population, public services relating to health, education, transport, etc., are constantly under pressure; imbalanced distribution of population often causes political and social conflicts apart from riots.

A rapid increase in population during the post-Independence period accounted for by the higher growth rates of population.

Essay # 3. Causes of Rapid Population Growth:

Factors affecting the growth rates of population can be classified into two groups:

1. Those responsible for high birth rate, and

2. Those responsible for falling death rate.

1. High Birth Rate:

In India, the birth rate has remained persistently high. In India, climatic, economic, social and religious factors combine together to keep the birth rate very high.

We shall discuss these factors in the succeeding section:

(i) Climatic Factors:

India has a hot climate. Girls get matured at an early age in such a climate. Their re-productivity period starts normally from 14 years, resulting in a larger re-productivity span.

(ii) Economic Factors:

The incidence of pregnancy and the number of children born in a poor household is generally larger for the following reasons:

(a) Every addition to the family in a poor household is treated as an asset. Children at a very young age start helping their parents to raise the family income.

(b) Because of deficient diet, lack of medical facilities, unhygienic living conditions, etc., the infant mortality rate among the poor people is generally high. In order to ensure that some children do survive, poor people tend to have large number of children.

(c) Children also act like insurance for their parents. These children, when grow up, provide security to their parents in old age.

(d) Poor people are generally illiterate. They do not understand the real implications of a large family, and therefore, resist the acceptance of family planning.

(e) Poor people cannot afford the costly contraceptives and oral medicines for controlling the size of their families.

(iii) Social Factors:

Social factors also influence the size of a family.

Among the various social factors affecting the growth of population the more important are as follows:

(a) Marriage is a universal phenomenon in India.

(b) Child marriage in rural India is a rule rather than an exception. Marriage at an early age lengthens the reproductive age of women.

(c) The number of women in the reproductive age is very large.

(d) The number of children born per couple tends to increase when the couple is desirous of male progeny which is considered a must according to customs.

(e) The joint family system also provides a spurt to population growth. In such a system, children are not the responsibility of the couple alone but of the whole family.

(iv) Religious Factors:

India is a country of many faiths and cultures. Some religions do not prefer and preach family planning. For example, according to Christianity, termination of pregnancy is a sin. Even Mahatma Gandhi, who influenced the political scene of India for about four decades, did not agree to the idea of family planning. He considered it as an immoral act.

2. Falling Death Rate:

In India, the death rate has declined considerably during the last five decades or so.

The major factors responsible for the declining death rate are as follows:

(i) Control over many dreadful and chronic diseases such as plague, cholera, small-pox, etc. These diseases used to take a heavy toll of human life.

(ii) Invention of antibiotics and other life-saving drugs.

(iii) There are no deaths on account of good shortages and famines.

(iv) Improvement in diet and standard of living has increased life span of the people.

(v) Improvement in sanitation and cleanliness.

(vi) The provision of better maternity and post-natal care has helped to bring down the infant mortality rate.

Essay # 4. Population Control:

Growing population will create problems not only for the individual households but for the whole country. If population is allowed to grow at its present rate, it will retard economic development of our country. It is, therefore, essential to check the growth of population.

The following measures can be adopted for population control:

(i) Industrial and Agricultural Development:

Some thinkers believe that ‘development is the best contraceptive’. By raising industrial and agricultural productivity higher incomes can be ensured for the labour class. It is through this increase in income that the poor families will almost certainly experience a beneficial decline in their traditionally high fertility.

(ii) Urbanisation:

Urbanisation is usually associated with low fertility. Urbanisation changes the value of life and the outlook of the people. People living in crowded towns can easily realise the norms and necessity of a small size family.

(iii) Enhancing the Status of Women in the Society:

Malnourished mothers give birth to weak and unhealthy infants. Such infants often die. This leads to frequent pregnancies. Women hardly have any say in determining the size of families. Women are generally dependent on men and it is the will of the man that ultimately prevails. High status of women in the society will create a sense of confidence and security in them which will have a desired effect on the fertility rate.

(iv) Expanding Basic Education:

Enlightenment of women is essential to lower the fertility rate. Basic education makes possible for both men and women and acquisition of information of family planning. It increases their exposure to mass media and printed material, and enables them to learn about modern contraceptives and their use.

(v) Reducing Infant Mortality:

By improving the nutritional content of diet, hygienic conditions and health services, the rate of infant mortality could be reduced considerably.

(vi) Propagation:

Through mass media, the people can be informed, educated and persuaded to accept family planning which would ultimately reduce the birth rate.

(vii) Provision of Family Aids:

The government should provide simple, non-injurious and effective contraceptives at cheaper rates. It should set up family welfare centres for the needy couples. Research facilities relating to the discovery of new and effective contraceptives must be expanded.

(viii) Incentives and Disincentives:

Incentives in the form of cash payments, promotions, housing and other facilities could be offered to the acceptors of family planning programmes, similarly, penalties can be imposed on the parents having many children.

To sum up, population control is essential for accelerating the pace of economic development. The Western thinking that ‘development is the best contraceptive’ is irrelevant in Indian conditions. It is only through propagation, adoption and persuasion that we can check the growth of India’s population.

Essay # 5. Population and Economic Development:

According to Richard T. Gill, “Economic development is not a mechanical process. It is a human enterprise and like all human enterprises, its outcome will depend finally on the skill, quality and attitude of the man who undertakes it.” The above statement is absolutely correct in the context of the Indian economy. Had the number of people in the country been the sole determinant of economic development, perhaps China would have been the most developed country of the world followed by India. But, it is not only the size of population but also its composition and quality which actually promote economic development.

Composition of population refers to the distribution of population according to different age-groups. Broadly speaking, the population in India is divided in three groups, viz., 0-14 years, 15-59 years, and 60 years and above. The working population of the country or the supply of labour force comes from the age group 15-59 years. Larger the number of people in the age group 15-59 years, more will be the possibility of labour force contributing to economic development.

Table 1. shows that the percentage of population in the age group of 15-59 in 1971 was only 52. And in this age group also, all persons do not work. There may be school/college-going children, housewives, disabled and unemployed persons.

The dependency ratio of the population works out to about 50 per cent. A high dependency ratio acts as a serious drag on production and improvement of living standards. Data for the year 2000 shows that the percentage of population in the age group 15-59 years is likely to increase and, therefore, we can expect higher level of productivity and development.

It is not only the percentage of population in the age group 15- 59 years that determines the work participation rate, but it also depends upon the employment opportunities. According to the census 1991, the work participation rate in India in 1991 was 37.46 per cent.

Quality of Population also determines the level of economic development. The real wealth of a country does not lie in its lands, waters, minerals, forests, etc., but in healthy and efficient men, women and children. The quality of population is to be seen in terms of education, training, skill, efficiency, industriousness of the people.

According to the World Bank, “Developing countries with higher literacy rates have tended to grow faster, even after allowances are made for differences in incomes and physical investments, and they have had higher physical investment rates.”

In India, the rate of literacy was only 16.7 per cent in 1951 which had gone up to 52.21 per cent in 1991. This clearly shows that with the increase in the literacy rate the Indian economy has advanced over the last three decades of planned economic development.

Life Expectancy is another factor reflecting upon the quality of population. The number of years for which people of a country expected to live at the time of birth is known as the average life expectancy of that country. Life expectancy in India was only 20.2 years in decade 1911-20. It went up to 32.1 years in 1951 and further to 59.0 years in 1991-92. Increase in the life expectancy increases the span of working period of the population and thus helps in generating larger income in the economy.

Economists use the Physical Quality of Life Index (PQL1) as an important and reliable measure of economic development. PQL1 includes life expectancy, infant mortality and literacy, whereas the PQL1 in India in 1996 was 50. It was 99 in Sweden and 97 in the U.S.A. the corresponding per capita incomes of three countries amounted to $ 320, $23, 750 and $ 26,980 respectively.

In brief, age composition and quality of population have a great bearing on economic development.

Essay # 6. Theory of Demographic Transition:

Growth economists consider human resources as an important determinant of economic development. The Theory of Demographic Transition explains the growth of population through three different stages of economic development.

Stages of Demographic Transition:

There are three stages of demographic transition. The first stage relates to the most backward stage of a country in which both birth rate and death rate are high. High birth and death rates keep the growth of population either stagnant or very slow.

The second stage of demographic transition relates to a developing economy. At this stage birth rate continues to be high, whereas the death rate falls considerably. Birth rate is high because of social customs which do not change overnight, there is mass illiteracy and the people are not rich enough to practise family planning measures. Death rate, on the other hand, falls on account of improved medical and health facilities, fall in infant mortality rate, assured food supply, a better standard of living, and so on. A high birth rate matched with a sharp decline in the death rate causes a rapid increase in population.

The third stage of demographic transition relates to the developed countries where population is either stagnant or it increases at a low rate on account of low birth and death rates.

Indian Experience:

India is currently passing through second stage of demographic transition. According to the 1991 Census, the birth rate has been estimated at 28.9 per thousand and death rate at 10.0 per thousand. The average annual growth rate of population works out to be 1.89 per cent. By all standards over 1.5 per cent growth rate of population is indicative of underdevelopment. If population grows at such a high rate it will have deterrent effects on economic development. Not only the per capita income will increase slowly, but the people in general will have to be contended with a low standard of living.

The theory of demographic transition (TDP) is being defied in most of the developing economies. According to this theory, ‘economic growth is the best contraceptive’. It may be true in case of the developed economies of today during the early phase of their economic development. These countries had the opportunities to exploit their own resources and also the external resources.

In case of developing countries like India the pressure of rising population is impeding economic growth. Population cannot be controlled by achieving high rate of economic growth. During 45 years of planned development, in spite of satisfactory rate of economic growth there has not been considerable rise in the standard of living of the poor people.

The true solution to the population problem in a developing economy could be found by formulating a realistic and rational population policy which emphasises the need of containing population through better education, improving the status of women, employment generation and larger participation of the masses in the population control programmes.

Essay # 7. Population Policy:

In order to solve the menacing problem of population it is essential to formulate a rational population policy which may contain the growing population. The Government did not come forward with a national population policy until the mid-seventies.

The present population policy aims at reducing the birth rate by adopting various measures such as:

(i) Raising the age of marriage to 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys.

(ii) Raising the level of female education.

(iii) Providing monetary incentives for the couples accepting family planning.

(iv) Providing suitable group incentive to medical profession, zila parishads, panchayat samitis, teachers, trade unions etc.

(v) Providing facilities for primary health centres, sterilisations, distribution of local contraceptives and oral pills, etc.

The experience of the last few years shows that the voluntary controls have proved to be ineffective control of the population. On the one hand, the Government should educate people about the norms of small family and provide necessary facilities to practise family planning; on the other hand, it should discourage large families by adopting various administrative, monetary and fiscal measures.