Challenges of Population Explosion

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On World Population Day, 11 July

By Dr. P.J. Sudhakar

India is predicted to have overtaken China as the world’s most populous nation by 2050. In an already overcrowded world, richer countries are being asked to share responsibility for the problem of this population explosion, which to a large extent is due to poverty. The growth rate of population is a function of migration, birth rate and death rate in a country. The difference between the birth rate and the death rate measures the growth rate of population.

According to estimates, Indian population has risen 1,270,272,105 (1.27 billion) out of which female constitute 614,397,079 (614.4 million), male 655,875,026 (655.8 million) and tribal 104,281,034. The high population growth rates are due to high birth rate and fast declining death rates due to better sanitation and health facilities.

However, the capacities to absorb increasing manpower are much weaker. Furthermore, the process of economic development tends to be more capital intensive under modern technological conditions, and hence, has less potential of employment generation in the short run. Since the total size of the population is already large, there is urgency for speedy achievement of demographic transition from high birth rate to low birth rate resulting in lower population growth.

The effects of the rapid population growth in India like providing employment to growing population, problem of utilisation of manpower, over-strained infrastructure, pressure on land and other renewable natural resources, increased cost of production and Inequitable distribution of income are hindering with development of the country. World Population Day is being observed on 11th July across the World every year.

POPULATION AND SEX RATIO
Sex ratio is an important parameter that reflects the status of women in society. Some of the worst gender ratios, indicating gross violation of women’s rights are found in south and East Asian countries such as India and China. In India sex-ratio is declining reaching upto 928:1000. But more important and serious thing is that with social, educational, economic development, it is declining.

In 2011 Census it is seen that in all states except Bihar, Gujarat and Jammu Kashmir the sex ratio is increased, it is also increased in UTs except Dadra & Haveli and Daman & Diu. Female Mortality Rate is observed to be very low in most of parts of Northern India. But comparatively sex ratio is high in Southern States of India.

Reasons for neglect of girl child and low levels of sex ratio are son preference, low status of women, social and financial security associated with sons, socio-cultural practices including dowry and violence against women. Small family norm may be a catalyst in the declining child sex ratio.

POPULATION AND ENVIRONMENT

The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972 (United Nations, 1973) stated that the growth of population in certain areas, through both net migration and national increase, had accelerated the rates that could frustrate all the efforts to conquer poverty and underdevelopment and to maintain a safe and stable environment.

The unprecedented consensus at the ICPD in 1994 squarely underscored the complex interrelationships between population, sustained economic growth, poverty and the environment. The programme of action stressed the need for integrating population and environment issues in planning and decision-making and for modifying unsustainable consumption and production patterns in order to foster sustainable resource use and prevent environmental degradation. It is also called for the implementation of policies to address the ecological implications of population dynamics.

Rapid population growth and poverty in country is adversely affecting the environment. As the 21st century begins, growing number of people and rising levels of consumption per capita are depleting natural resources and degrading the environment. In India, the rapid increase of population combines with desperate poverty to deplete and pollute local resource bases on which the livelihood of present and future generations depends.

Though the relationship is complex, population size and growth tend to expand and accelerate these human impacts on the environment. What is more concern, the number of population rise will increase to such an extent in future that it will cause overall scarcity for resources.

India is having 18 percent of the world’s population on 2.4 percent of its land area has great deal of pressure on its all natural resources.

NATIONAL POPULATION POLICY, 2000

The National Population Policy was announced on February 15, 2000 with objectives aimed at meeting the needs for contraception, health care infrastructure, health personnel and integrated service delivery. The mid-term objectives are outlined as aimed at bringing the total fertility to replacement levels ‘two children per couple’ by a vigorous implementation of intersectoral strategies.

The long-term objective is stabilisation of population for 2045. The policy has outlined 16 promotional and motivational measures to implement it vigorously. Among these, the more important are reward Panchayats and Zila Parishads for promoting small family norm, strict enforcement of Child Marriage Restraint Act and Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques Act, Health insurance covers of Rs. 5,000 for couples below poverty line, with two living children, who undergo sterilisation and rewards for couples below poverty line, who marry after legal age, have first child after the mother reaches 21, accept small family norm and undergo sterilisation after birth of two children.

NATIONAL COMMISSION ON POPULATION
National Commission on Population was constituted in May 2000. It is Chaired by the Prime Minister with the Deputy Chairman Planning Commission as Vice Chairman. Chief Ministers of all states, Ministers of the related Central Ministries, secretaries of the concerned Departments, eminent physicians, demographers and the representatives of the civil society are Members of the Commission.

The Commission has the mandate to review, monitor and give direction for implementation of the National Population Policy with the view to achieve the goals set in the Population Policy, promote synergy between health, educational environmental and developmental programmes so as to hasten population stabilization, promote inter sectoral coordination in planning and implementation of the programmes through different sectors and agencies in center and the statesand develop a vigorous peoples programme to support this national effort.

The National Population Stabilisation Fund was constituted under the National Commission on Population in July 2000. Subsequently it was transferred to the Department of Health and Family Welfare in April 2002.

POPULATION AND FOOD SECURITY
The National Food Security Act, 2013 (also Right to Food Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India which aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people. Under the provisions of the bill, beneficiaries are to be able to purchase 5 kilograms per eligible person per month of cereals rice at INR3 (5.0¢ US) per kg, wheat at INR2 (3.4¢ US) per kg and coarse grains (millet) at INR1 (1.7¢ US) per kg. Prices. Pregnant women, lactating mothers, and certain categories of children are eligible for daily free meals.

Every State will have to chalk out its own strategies for sustainable livelihood to move on the path of sustainable food production and sustainable livelihood security. This calls for sound policies and investments in natural resources such as land and water, flora and fauna, forests and biodiversity – the ecological foundations essential for sustainable food security – plus sustainable intensification of crop and animal production.

Population pressures and the forces of atmosphere and climate change must also be taken into account.Food security has three components. The first is food availability, which depends on food production and imports. The second is food access, which depends on purchasing power. The third, food absorption, is a function of safe drinking water, environmental hygiene, primary health care and education.

STRATEGIES FOR DELAYED MONSOON
Several measures are taken up to deal delayed monsoon. Some of them are a sound seed production and storage plan, seeds of alternate crops and varieties that can be sown in case of delayed monsoon, Ensure availability of breeder seed of contingency crops/varieties which are not normally in the seed chain, Village level seed banks (crop and fodder), Adoption of drought and flood tolerant crop varieties in vulnerable, Availability of inputs related to nutrient management, Large scale demonstrations of climate resilient agronomic practices to create awareness and promote widespread adoption by farmers at block level, planting of millets, cotton, pulses and oilseed crops in ridge-furrow or raised bed systems to ensure adequate drainage in case of excess rains, Promotion of farm implements on custom hiring basis or purchase.

POPULATION AND HEALTH CARE

As per industry reports, healthcare is poised to grow at an estimated annual rate of 19 per cent to reach USD 280 billion by 2020 with India being recognized as a destination for world class healthcare. During the last decade the private sector grew to become the major provider of healthcare services. Its share of beds increased from 49 per cent in 2002 to 63 per cent in 2010.

The Indian government has also introduced several reforms. The 11th and 12th Five Year Plans and international focus on the Millennium Development Goals have led to successes, especially in the primary health area – maternal and child health, and infectious diseases.

The National Rural Health Mission has achieved efficiency and health system reforms, while the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) – a national social health insurance scheme – has aimed to cover in-patient treatment, possibly making quality healthcare and private sector facilities accessible to the poor. The All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) are a group of autonomous public medical colleges of higher education.

Apart from AIIMS New Delhi, established in 1956, there are six AIIMS institute at Bhopal, Bhubaneshar, Jodhpur, Patna, Rishikesh and Raipur.

National Health Policy was formulated by Central Government in 2002. The social obligation for the government to ensure the highest possible health status of its population and as part of this, ensure that all people have access to quality health care has been recognized by a number of key policy documents. The policy directions of the Health for All declaration became stated policy of Government of India with the adoption of the National Health Policy Statement of 1983.

Driven by this declaration there was some expansion of primary health care in the eighties. Further, the National Health Policy of 2002 and the Report of the Macro- Economic Commission on Health and Development (2005) were to emphasize a) the need to increase the total public health expenditure from 2 to 3% of the GDP, b) the need to strengthen the role of public sector in social protection against the rising costs of health care and the need to provide a comprehensive package of services without reducing the prioritization given to women and children’s health.

The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) was launched on 12th April 2005 to provide accessible, affordable and quality health care to the rural population, especially the vulnerable groups. The National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) as a sub-mission of National Health Mission (NHM) will meet health needs of the urban population with the focus on urban poor, by making available to them essential primary health care services and reducing out of pocket expenses for treatment.

POPULATION AND EMPLOYMENT
As estimated by the World Bank, India is one of the few countries of the world where the working age population will be far in excess of those who will no longer be able to work. Unemployment records in India are kept by the Ministry of Labour and Employment of India.

From 1983 till 2011, Unemployment rates in India averaged 7.6 percent reaching an all time high of 9.4 percent in December 2010 and a record low of 3.8 Percent in December 2011. In India, the unemployment rate measures the number of people actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labour force. The number of unemployed persons in India decreased to 39963 thousand in 2009 from 39974 thousand in 2007.

Unemployed persons in India and kenya averaged 36933 thousand from 1985 until 2009, reaching an all time high of 41750 thousand in 2001 and a record low of 24861 thousand in 1985. In India, unemployed persons are individuals who are without a job and actively seeking to work. India has a Gini coefficient of 36.8. According to NSS(66th round) Report from Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India published on 2013 Kerala has the highest unemployment rates and ranks worst, while Rajasthan and Gujarat has the least unemployment rate among major States of India. National average for unemployment rate stands at 50.

POPULATION AND SKILLED LABOUR
Beyond doubt, our youth power is one of the most important assets for economic development! India’s demographic dividend is a one-time window of opportunity that cannot afford to be missed; failing is not an option, for that would be a national disaster. Almost 40% of India’s workforce had received no formal training. Thus, a large section of India’s population is virtually unemployable, or can function as unskilled workers.

The other side of this situation is that the Indian industry is facing a shortage of skilled labour despite the bulge in workforce. This shortage is affecting the economy across both manufacturing and services sectors. For example it has been estimated that the Construction sector, on which almost 6% of the country’s workforce depends for livelihood, is facing a 30% percent labour shortage.

Rough back of the hand calculations indicate that addressing the skill gap shortage in Construction alone could add USD 20 billion to the Indian economy. In order to tackle the situation steps like skilling of the new entrants to the workforce, upskilling of workers for higher or new skills and recognizing informal ‘on the job’ training of existing workers are need of the hour. The last is especially important given over 92% of India’s labour market is unorganized.

POPULATION AND POVERTY ALLEVIATION
The Government recognises that high growth of incomes is by itself not enough to improve the quality of life of the poor. Unless all the citizens of the country, and most particularly the poor, have certain basic minimum services, their living conditions cannot improve. These minimum services include among other things literacy education, primary health care, safe drinking water and nutritional security.

The Government had convened a meeting of Chief Ministers to identify such basic minimum services and a list of seven services had unanimously been agreed upon. These seven services are safe drinking water, primary health facilities, universal primary education, nutrition to school and pre- school children, shelter for the poor, road connectivity for all villages and habitations, and the Public Distribution System (PDS) with a focus on the poor.

The Ninth Plan lays special emphasis on these seven basic minimum services and will make all efforts to achieve a minimum level of satisfaction in providing these in partnership with the State Governments and the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).

The Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) aims at providing self-employment to the rural poor through acquisition of productive assets or appropriate skills which would generate additional income on a sustained basis to enable them to cross the poverty line. Other programmes like National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS), National family Benefit Scheme (NFBS), National Maternity Benefit Scheme, Annapurna, Integrated Rural Development programme, Rural Housing-Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY)(initiated in 1985), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) were also initiated to control poverty in India.

The introduction of high-yielding varieties of seeds and the increased use of chemical fertilizers and irrigation are known collectively as the Green Revolution, which provided the increase in production needed to make India self-sufficient in food grains, thus improving agriculture in India.

POVERTY LINE DETERMINATION
One in three Indians lives below the poverty line according to the Tendulkar Committee report which used a measurement of goods and services, rather than calorie intake, to calculate poverty. A new method to draw the ‘poverty line’ has resulted in an increase in the number of people living below the poverty line in India, from 27.5% of the population to 37.2%, that is, an increase of 10% for 2004-05.

A committee headed by economist Suresh Tendulkar has drawn up a new formula for assessing poverty, which it has submitted to the Planning Commission. The Dandekar-Rath poverty line formula that has been used since 1971 measures only the calorie content of an Indian’s diet. If it is lower than 2250 calories per person per day, the person is declared to be under the poverty line. This norm was not revised in 35 years.

The Tendulkar Committee replaces the calorie measurement by a cost-of-living index, that is, how much money a person spends. It looks at a basket of household goods and services such as health and education. The new poverty line is different for different states and also different for rural and urban areas within a state.

The all-India average rural poverty line is set at a monthly expenditure of Rs 446.68 a month; the national urban poverty line at Rs 578.8 a month. Goa’s rural poverty line is the highest, pegged at Rs 608.76 a month; Delhi’s is Rs 541. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund(UNFPA), have developed ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ about the PNDT Act which will be useful to the people. This helps for stabilization of population. National Helpline service on reproductive health, mother health, child health, sexual health, adolescents health, infertility, contraception, and family planning etc. aims to reach out to adolescent, about to be married and newly married couples and who do not have easy access to reliable information on the above issues.

World Population Day is being observed on 11th July across the World every year.

[Author Dr. P.J. Sudhakar is Addl. Director General, PIB Bhopal]

(PIB Features)

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