India’s Population Time Bomb
Image Credit: Simply CVR

India’s Population Time Bomb


Asha says she didn’t even tell her husband that she was going to get sterilised. The 29-year-old domestic worker from the busy New Delhi suburb of Noida says she knew her husband and family would disapprove of her having the procedure. But she says that with the couple already struggling to feed the three children they have, she just didn’t understand why they wanted her to have another baby.

‘I never understood it,’ she whispers conspiratorially, even though we’re alone. ‘But my family said “What if your sons die? You’ll be left with nothing.” I heard this a lot.’

Asha is a resident of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with a population of 190 million and growing. With a total fertility rate of 3.8 (TFR being the average number of children a woman bears during her lifetime), the state is a perfect example of everything that’s wrong with India’s health infrastructure. It’s also an unlikely place for Asha’s ‘no more kids’ resolve.

As well as a high fertility rate, Uttar Pradesh has a worryingly high infant mortality rate of 67 per 1000 live births (twice the rate of the Maldives and more than 10 times that of the United States). It’s figures such as these that encourage families like Asha’s to want more children, to in effect hedge against possible future losses.

‘It’s the biggest bottleneck for family planning, the defining disincentive for small families,’ says Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the Population Foundation of India, a leading non-profit that’s based in New Delhi.

Under the guidance of Indian Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who seems to have brought to the role a genuine enthusiasm for reform, India has in recent months shown a delayed but welcome focus on the challenge of stabilizing the population.

Still, it’s a complex and emotive issue. To begin with, the sheer scale of the task of managing population growth in a country that now has 17 percent of the world’s population is extremely daunting. The task has been complicated over the years by the changing perceptions of population and family planning.

From the 1960s through much of the 1980s, the country’s rapidly growing population was considered a major obstacle toward equitable development, with India’s population growing from 360 million in 1951 to 1.02 billion in 2001. But in the post-liberalisation years of the early 1990s,  the steady supply of human resources and a young population was instead hailed as a key strength in an otherwise greying global economy.

Alpha roger
January 21, 2013 at 11:24

Uncle C
The largest single contributor to spread of AIDS in China was Mao. 100s of 18 year olds he released back on the streets of Peking carried his message of syphillis and miscellaneous infections which became a part of your cultural revolution. That a nation of 4 footers should talk about stature is very amusing. Between white European whites and afrian blacks who settled America the average American height was 6 foot. with just a few million Chinese who went to US the average height dropped two Inches. and tell me is it true that a million people are buried under Great Wall of china. One prisoner per inch. How many prisoners we’re buried under the hi rise towers of Beijing and shanghai. We’re these the prisoners who were condemned to hard labor because they had more than one child. Uncle C you gotta learn to be more avuncular and give credit where it’s due. thank Indians for giving you the most enduring and civilising influence when the exported Buddha to China. Thank Mongols and genghis khan. For adding two inches to china’s national height. Please. Uncle C. don’t ki those prisoners.

January 21, 2013 at 11:20

solution is Ghazwa E Arab

January 10, 2011 at 11:24

Your opinions seem to suffer from a highly selective world view.

To summarize my rebuttals:

1) American led globalism has lifted a billion people out of grinding poverty. The great communist experiments of the 20th Century had to kill tens and hundreds of millions of people before their leaders realized capitalism was the only real way to provide any significant and last improvements to the human condition.

2) Average American stature has nothing to do with bizarre eugenics breeding programs but much more to do with the fact that Americans, from the earliest colonial days, have been the best fed people in the world. This has everything to do with the abundance of the North American continent. In deed the United States has always been a food exporters. We fed the USSR during the Soviet era and we continue to feed both India and China and large portions of the rest of the world.

3) The US could use more trains. However, economically they are much less feasible within the US than in China. American cities, excepting a dense cluster of cities in the center east, are geographically distant from each other. The volume of daily traffic between large cities in minimal. Certainly to the degree of making a bullet train not worth while. Though light rail makes sense in many urban areas. Travel between US cities is much more cheaply served by several small jet liner flights than large train networks. Rising fuel prices will change this.

4) China’s economic rise against the US has, in a significant part, been fueled by their dismissal of international agreements they do not want to abide by. China actively manipulates their currency and conducts itself in other ways that benefits their economy at the expense of their competitors who hold themselves to international law. Not to mention their willingness to rape their natural resources and environment. China is now the worlds largest polluter ahead of the US with India rising swiftly. All the while the US is becoming more and more “Green.”

Neither China nor India have produced nations I would consider immigrating to. Yet millions of people around the world still desire to come to the US. I think that is telling.

Uncle B
December 11, 2010 at 07:13

Compared to the great hulking American neanderthals, born of corporatism’s 250 year effort to force breed, from best European stocks, a dull witted, strong bodied, high physical energy brute, for the soul purpose of exploiting North America’s riches, the small bodied sort coming from Asia fit the new age well! With some strong communist planning from China, sustainable Nuclear/electric bullet train networks, and their associated infrastructures can use these veggies and rice fed folk in the manufacture of cheaper, oil free goods for the whole world. China has these mechanisms, mechanisms that fit well with the type of humanity nature spontaneously produces,and nuclear/electric bullet train networks and their associated infrastructures are spreading in the Asian world as we speak!
India will not suffer! China has shown the way to sustainable, albeit short and successful lives for the many, while America has faltered, its American Dream a current day, unsustainable nightmare that promises enslavement of many for the benefit of the very few at the top, Capitalism’s original flaw!It is America that is failing, at this threshold of the New Age, and real equal opportunity for the masses.
America’s masses are far too indoctrinated, far to propagandized, and far to big-bodied to fit into the new age. They face extinction as a nation, unable to adapt to the realities of food and material supplies in today’s world. Simply put: they expect more than they are worth for their efforts, and require far more for their maintenance than anything they produce!

November 25, 2010 at 09:48

Why stop at 5:1, what not 1000:1 or 1000000:1. That will drive the evolution much better way. You need to revise your thinking.

November 24, 2010 at 14:43

P.S. A ratio of 3:, 4: or 5:1 would be much better, for evolution’s purposes.

November 24, 2010 at 14:35

Solving problems are what governments are paid to do by taxpayers. No pain, no gain. Either the species has one set of problems to solve, or another set. There is no such thing as no problems at all ever, so preference of one set over another is a distinction without a difference. The result of the difference I describe is better than the result of the difference others fear. Better for the human species, and hugely better for the nation and people of India.

November 24, 2010 at 11:48

yeah, having a male to female ratio of 1.5:1 shouldn’t be a problem really

November 24, 2010 at 04:02

Aside from the sickening and hideous barbarisms of caste, dowries, and arranged marriages, the worst mistake India ever made was to declare abortions of female fetuses illegal. Only females bear and birth young. Reducing the number of females in a population automatically and necessarily reduces the number of births. Aborting female fetuses is the most intelligent, efficient, cost-effective and simplest way to control overpopulation.

As well, if caste, dowry, and arranged marriages can be wiped out, a female in a reduced field of females has a vastly greater choice of potential mates. Naturally, on her own recognizance, she will choose the best of the available options. That male will be the one with the highest odds of providing security, stability, and comfort for the environment of raising children. Thus, on average, over all the gene pool, the children of those matings made with greater choice will be genetically superior to the average. They would have been an entire generation of exception, excellent children, far above the norm for any nation’s population.

Aborting female fetuses is the best method of birth control possible for the human species. No better way to control overpopulation is humanly possible. The Indian government committed the worst policy mistake they ever made when they made the selective aborting of female fetuses illegal.

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