Population growth: Stabilization holds the key

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

PRB World PopulationBy S. Sivakumar*

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 at 6,928,198,253.

Where Do We Go From Here?

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.

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 Taken by 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 norms.

The programme organized by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Jansankhya 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.

Global Situation

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 possibility for Niger.

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". (PIB Features.) 

(*S. Sivakumar is a Freelance Writer. Views expressed by the author in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of news.BDTV.in.)
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11 July 2012 at 21:23 delete

seriously, STABILIZATION indeed holds the key!!!!! IT'S A NEED OF AN HOUR