India’s young population is no doubt the driving force of the country’s economic growth. But it also comes with clouded challenges such as providing adequate housing and infrastructure and addressing the problem of slums. Latest research shows that in Delhi and Mumbai, half the population lives in slums. A majority of the slums are situated near employment centres. The ever growing population has already stretched into economic inequality, poverty, lack of free medical assistance, lack of social security and bad living conditions. It is becoming critical by the day. India has a population crisis at hand and it is about time, the government shook itself up from its slumber.
Re-looking at Sterilization
Sterilization has been prevalent in India to curb the population growth and it goes back to the 1970s. But it has also resulted in deaths and discrimination as well as unsuccessful attempts. According to the Family Planning Indemnity Scheme (FPIS), the government assures Rs 30, 000 for sterilization fails. But it takes years for the applicants to move the government due to laxity on the part of the authorities and officials concerned. Research shows that failure of sterilization is common in tribal areas of the states where the government used to regularly organize mass sterilization camps. It has also been observed that women who opt for sterilization are either poor, illiterate or have very little education. Sterilization camps were banned by the Supreme Court in 2016. According to experts, the mindset in India, being a male-dominated patriarchal society, is for the women to take responsibility for family planning. And male sterilization is not socially accepted. Women have to bear the brunt of having the girl child. There has also been increase in female foeticide and this has no doubt resulted in gender imbalance.
While family planning depends entirely on the family per se, the government can play an active role in educating the masses. Bangladesh is a good example. It used communications and awareness-raising campaigns to change people’s attitudes to family size and to increase the use of contraceptives among married women. According to ‘We Forum’, Bangladesh’s fertility decreased from an average of more than six children per woman in 1975 to slightly more than three today. Mark Montgomery, an economist, says ‘education’ is one of the most powerful tools in stemming population growth. “Education leads to lower birth rates and slows population growth. This makes it easier for countries to develop. A more-educated workforce also makes poverty eradication and economic growth easier to achieve,” says Mark.
Keeping India’s culture in mind, open-discussions on family planning will take some time but it has to be started at some point. The government should set up working groups in every state to initiate this soon. India is on a verge of a population crisis. It must be addressed before it is too late.