Five billion minds in
1987 had decided to establish World Population Day on July 11 and now,
for more than 20 years, this day has become an occasion to mark the
significance of population trends and related issues. Discussions and
debates are held with immense feeling and concern. The day has acquired
significance as an annual event. In 2011, as the world population was
expected to surpass 7 billion, UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund)
and its partners had launched a campaign called "7 Billion Actions" on
this very day.Latest official world population estimate, for mid-year
2011, was estimated at6,928,198,253.
Where Do We Go From
The concern is around
stabilization. Population stabilization is not just about numbers but
about balanced development. It has to be looked at in the context of
wider socio-economic development. It does not matter if in the process
things don’t stabilize by 2045; it could be achieved by 2050 or 2060.
But what is of greater concern is how we approach the issue of
Population stabilization is around the corner as there is enough
evidence from everywhere to show that women do not desire many children.
Limiting of their family has been understood by them as a dire
necessity. What they need is to draw confidence from the supporting
systems that are around them. They only want their children to survive
and do well and want the means of family planning and other reproductive
health services made accessible to them. All this should happen without
undermining in any way their sense of dignity and privacy. Coupled with
sustained efforts to enhance income and create conditions where women
retain control over that income, this could make a big difference.
The Question of Incentives
Population control agenda has taken its support from the people by
offering incentives and disincentives. Whether such incentives or
disincentives are necessary, are they effective and are they just? Can
incentives and disincentives improve quality and address the problems of
equity and access to health services, specially of women? Can they
enhance the accountability of service providers to the community? How
relevant or effective are incentives and disincentives? How do they
impinge on the rights of a person? These are often the questions that
are raised without firm answers being given.
The Two Extremes and Saner Voices
Enlightened political leaders and administrators have increasingly
begun to recognize the importance of education, access to health care
services, greater awareness and, most importantly, overall economic
development that would all assist in achieving the much needed
transition, leading to stabilization.
Steps by the Government of India
The Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Shri Ghulam Nabi
Azad has said that the benefits of developments are being negated by the
ever rising population. He said that delayed marriage and suitable gap
between two children should be highlighted as the possible solution for
the growing population. While coercion is not acceptable for promoting
family planning, there is need for universal acceptance of small family
The programme organized by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
andJansankhya Sthirta Kosh last year honoured Rekha Kalindi a student of
class 3 who refused to marry at the age of 10. The couples from the
backward and tribal districts of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh
and Orissa were also felicitated as role models for family planning.
These couples were also recipients of Prerna Award. The role of ASHAs
(Accredited Social Health Activists) in educating the rural people
deserves special mention here. Henceforth, World Population Day needs to
be observed at every village, block and district level to convert it
into a mass movement.
Rising population is one of the most critical problems India is facing
and will continue to face. Awareness, partnership and availability of
population control services along with strict vigilance and transparency
would help mitigate the woe that may befall us. A change in the attitude
of the service providers and bureaucracy is also suggested and is a
must. It is indeed heartening that, after almost 50 years of one-way
communication, the Government has welcomed public debate on this issue.
A world wide report cites the example of Niger in West Africa which
has increased life expectancy in the past 30 years but is doubling
population every 20 years. Even assuming its total fertility rate (TFR)
falls to 3.9 by 2050, which may be optimistic, the population will grow
from 15.5 to 55.5 million by 2050. A future in which population increase
outstrips the production of food and other necessities of life is a real
This report ends with a warning note : "The number of people living on
the planet has never been higher, their levels of consumption are
unprecedented and vast changes are taking place in the environment. We
can choose to rebalance the use of resources to a more egalitarian
pattern of consumption or we can choose to do nothing and to drift into
a downward spiral of economic and environmental ills leading to a more
unequal and inhospitable future".
July 11th is World Population Day.
*The Author is a Freelance Writer.