dmpq-Discuss the measures to stabilize India’s population growth.

. The National Population Policy 2000 affirmed a commitment to achieve replacement levels of fertility (total fertility rate of 2.1) by 2010. Ten states — Karnataka, Punjab, Gujarat, Assam, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala — and Jammu and Kashmir, have achieved this goal, albeit much delayed.

The question that arises is how could the Southern states achieve population stabilisation so early and several others could follow suit, while Uttar Pradesh and Bihar continue to drift? When fertility reduction in the five southern states succeeded, irrespective of literacy and education levels and could permeate all sections, it overturns the conventional wisdom that literacy, education and development are prerequisites for populations to stabilise. The simple explanation is that fertility decline was achieved because southern governments proactively urged families to have only two children, followed by female sterilisation immediately thereafter. Almost the entire state apparatus was marshalled to achieve this objective.

For decades UP has had a dedicated agency — SIFPSA (State Innovations in Family Planning Services Agency). But its website gives dated information in contrast to its stellar COVID dashboard — demonstrating that communication and technical difficulties are overcome once a subject gains priority. Women in rural UP are still giving birth to four or more children. In some districts, the contraceptive prevalence rate is less than 10 per cent. In many districts neither Hindus nor Muslims use modern family planning methods. In such a scenario, demographics will eclipse economic growth and destroy the gains from a young populace. UP’s over-reliance on traditional methods of contraception needs to be swiftly replaced with reliable and easy alternatives .

Three things are needed: Incentivise later marriages and child births; make contraception easy for women and promote women’s labour force participation. The population momentum, if managed properly in the Hindi belt, will remain India’s biggest asset until 2055. By 2040, India will be the undisputed king of human capital.

But alongside some other disturbing nationwide trends must also be counteracted without delay because stabilisation isn’t only about controlling population growth. A balanced sex ratio is essential to secure social cohesion. Son preference, falling sex ratios, and an abhorrence towards begetting a second or third female child are negative developments that have penetrated even into rural areas. The inheritance law favouring women’s rights to ancestral property is far from being implemented. Decades of policing doctors and sonography machines have failed to bear results. China is already facing a demographic catastrophe because its nearly four decade-long one child policy resulted in a strong son preference and a large bride shortage. India will need more than girl friendly schemes to change track.

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