Uttar Pradesh or UP is one of the largest states in India, and with a population of more than 22 crores(220 million), it would probably be the 5th most populous country in the world if independent following only China, India, US and the UK. This means that UP should have the resources to support such large population fiscally, in terms of proper remuneration and security. Research proves otherwise. And so, on the occasion of the World Population Day, Uttar Pradesh announced the two children policy in a bid to control the population of the state which has had a fertility rate more than the ideal 2.1 for decades now.
However, there is a question that stands above all the policies that are to be enacted by the governments – is population really the main problem? And will controlling population be the answer to all the woes?
India is a partial welfare economy. That in turn means it is partially just a big corporate state speaking in terms of economics. The poor and the ones with quotas are provided with free fuel, almost free food and a remuneration even without jobs. This is a positive aspect to a country where the Moody’s announced in 2021 that the inflation rate has become alarmingly high and the government defending its every decision citing a lack of revenue. A lesser population would perhaps mean lesser poor, lesser taxes or probably a complete welfare state run by a capitalist model like those in Scandinavia. This dream might take more than a century to be realised, hence the word – perhaps. A lesser population might also mean a more even distribution of resources – as the incumbent Chief Minister of UP announced in his speech. A similar rhetoric was used by the World Trade Organisation for countries in Asia and Africa where the fertility rates have been traditionally high in an already large population. This rhetoric has also been used by the early Communist China and the Indian government since the 1970s in the name of family planning. Knowing these rhetorics might actually be helpful in understanding the way in which population is and is not a solution to the problems the world faces.
China was the most populous country when the Communist Party announced its victory in a long drawn Civil War. And it soon announced the Great Leap Forward Program followed by steps to open up the economy. And considering population to be the chief factor behind poverty, China announce the now infamous one child policy. The important thing is China is a strong economy in the present day and has reduced poverty to minimal levels and all this was done not because there was any absolute reduction in population (China saw a steady population growth rate in absolute numbers thanks to the pre-existing population being very large and will stay the most populous country at least till 2025), but because of a judicious use of the same. China introduced labour intensive industries in the country, drawing international investment and generating employment for virtually everyone there. The demographic effect of the one child policy has become apparent only in the recent years where China feared that the fertility rate less than 2 might lead to an ageing of the nation – a point where more people would be older than the then working population, prompting it to revise one child policy to a two children policy.
India introduced the Two-Children policy back in the 1970s. The allegedly forced vasectomies during the Emergency months of the Indira Gandhi regime quite clearly reflect the apprehensions the stakeholders had regarding India’s future; the stakeholders being the government that needed funds and the World Bank and WTO that felt Indian population growth was alarming. India still maintains its family planning policy although in a relatively non-forced manner where the government uses mass media to convey this idea of ‘hum do humare do'(We two and our two) to the public. And while Indian population in the urban areas has quite neatly adopted to the idea, rural trends are not so appreciative of the same. India is projected to have more than 1.4 billion humans by 2030, about 15-18% of all humanity, the most populous nation on the planet. Indian government has failed to objectify its labour capital of its people – the government policies directed more towards social support than social upliftment. The generation of jobs was slow and inadequate and so was the generation of skilled labour per capita.
Most European countries, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong represent situations similar to India – large populations, high fertility rates in the middle and late 20th centuries and lack of land and resources. But their approach was to generate employment and skills while simultaneously reducing fertility rates which went down anyway as more people were educated, urban centers developed and prices of common commodities rose.
So, is state intervened birth control useful? In a nation as large as India, it might be, because a large population is still rural and poor and sustains on agricultural output alone or is an urban poor household that is keen on increasing the total labour it can provide to increase its income. However, one might quite clearly conclude understanding all previous scenarios explained that a large part of this intervened birth control is a propaganda or most probably a misjudgment of decades of flawed social and economic policies at the end of the Central and State governments.
To conclude, birth control policies are right considering the fact that a lesser population might mean lesser woes from both the government and the people, however, blaming population as the means and end to the prevalent problems by the state is just running away from accountability.
Happy World Population Day and we all can but await the results this new policy shall usher in the country.