Indian Prime Minister’s Call For Population Control: Not A Moment Too Soon – OpEd


It is good that Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi has, at last,  called for population control in India during his 73rd Independence Day address at Delhi.

During his first term of office for five years, Mr. Modi spoke on several much needed reforms and implemented a number of   progressive ideas. But,  he never spoke about the urgent need for population control. Several well meaning people wondered as to why Mr. Modi was silent on this issue and was not giving importance to check the population growth. A few suggestions and letters sent to Mr. Modi by well meaning persons, including the writer of this article , to introduce population control measures was not acknowledged. At least, some people wondered as to whether Mr. Modi refrained from this subject fearing loss of vote bank.

In any case, better late than never, Mr. Modi has now taken up this issue.  One only hope that he would take up follow up measures with determination and efficiency that he is known for, to implement the idea.

Already, some political parties have raised objection for Mr. Modi’s call, raising suspicion about his motive.  Mr. Modi should ignore such criticism and opposition with the contempt that they  deserve.

When India attained independence, 73 years ago, Indian population was less than 35 crore. Now , it has reached around 130 crore multiplying several times. While after independence, India has made several spectacular progress in industrial and agricultural front and the economy has grown, all such advantages have been undone by the  unchecked population growth, which can be justifiably termed as population explosion.

There is another way of looking at the Indian population growth and the percentage of people living below poverty line in India.  USA is more than two times the size of India and it’s population is only around one third of Indian population. Probably, if India were to have the same population as that of USA, perhaps, India could have been a super power by now.

The population growth has happened in India due to the improved medical science enabling  people to live longer. Further, in  some states like UP and Bihar , the fertility rate is still at unacceptably high level and with a particular religious group laying stress on rapidly increasing the population strength of the religion to have dominant presence in the country.

One of the criticisms by the economists is that the growth in population in India has come down in the recent past ,  with the fertility rate at  “alarmingly low” level  in some states. Such critics argue that the ageing population mean that working hands would come down in the future, causing problems for the country. This is a ridiculous argument.

Indian population is so high now at around 130 crore, that even if the population of the country would halve down due to population control measures, still there would be adequate population strength in the country to sustain the economy and society.

 Rajaji, the first Governor General of independent India, a person who was well acknowledged as an intellectual who could think ahead of his time, said that effective control of population in a democratic society is difficult, unless the level of education among the masses would significantly increase. Further, he said that the people would realise the problems that they have to face due to high density of population and the cost of bringing up the children and would realize that big family would not be in their interest and would voluntarily reduce their family size. Now, there are indications that this is happening to some extent but not to adequate level. Rajaji was against coercive methods to control population growth, saying that it would be impractical.

As a measure of population control, Mr. Modi should immediately bring a law banning polygamy. It is very common in India even today, particularly in one religion, for men to have three or even four wives and each wife giving birth to two or three children. Effective implementation of law banning polygamy can have a significant and positive impact on population growth before long.

It is also seen that some of the ministers, members of parliament and legislative assemblies have more than one wife today.  Why not a law be enacted that persons contesting the election for parliament and legislative assemblies should not have more than one wife.

While Mr. Modi has taken the first step to warn the nation about the impending population explosion , he has around five years left to bring a meaningful change in population expansion , by taking various innovative and appropriate steps. Certainly, concerned people are watching Mr. Modi’s next move to check the population growth with high expectations and considerable interest.

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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