Suddenly, the population is back!
It was there even in the PM’s speech to the Nation. Assam wants to withhold government jobs to persons who have more than two children.
Taking the bait, Muslim leaders have come out, shouting at the top of their voices.
In fact, the shouting has been going on for some two decades. Whatsapp forwards are abuzz with it. The prevailing wisdom is that population differentials will lead to the existential crisis of the Majority. Muslim and Christian priests have asked,….er…commanded- the faithful to multiply and contribute to global warming and poverty. Hindu religious leaders have not lagged behind.
But isn’t the rising world population a matter of concern?
Though India, by purchasing power parity, is the third largest economy in the world, by per person standards, we are only 180th or so. One of us, on an average, is ten to twenty times poorer than a European or American.
But it is time for some perspective.
It was Malthus, a gloomy 17th century English priest, who predicted that we would all starve. Population increases by geometric progression- two, four, eight, sixteen…. It is a bomb. The population bomb. Food and other necessities cannot keep up, he said.
When I was a kid, the red triangle was everywhere. ‘We too, ours’ two’- proclaimed government sponsored billboards. A whimsical family of four grinned at everybody from the walls of government buildings.
‘Use Nirodh!!’. The motto rang from All India Radio.
‘Mom, what is Nirodh?’
‘Shut up. Study…kid.’ Mum is suddenly angry.
I ask a friend. He shows me a huge balloon, next day at recess. A colossal row erupts. He gets a Nobel Prize from the Principal. I get a Padma Sri.
Excuse me. I digress.
Back to our cup of tea…er- mass of humanity.
Remember the former Prime Minister’s son who conducted a huge ‘Vasectomy drive’ all over India with Doctors given targets to fulfil? Young men as small as sixteen, ran across the streets of our country to evade capture. Nice times.
Ever wondered why we didn’t see a continuation of those Panic Attacks?
The Demographic Transition:
We need to understand, that there are miracles. This is one such. Social scientists noticed that, at some point, societies just stop producing more children. No mullah, priest or sanyasi can stop inexorable forces of History.
Look at the Data. Dont look at numbers, birth rate, proportion of live births etc. A lot of technical jargon is often used to mislead. Just look at FERTLITY RATES- the average number of children, a woman would have during her lifetime.
It was 6 in 1950. In 2011, it was 2.2. This is when we take India as a whole. 2.1 is the replacement level. By 2019, we are expected to reach that. But absolute numbers of people will continue to increase slowly, due to population momentum. By 2050, our population should stagnate. And then, could even decrease.
Wow! It seems that, our Red Triangle- Nirodh campaign has succeeded!
Ahem. Let us look at Bengladesh. The fertility rate was 7 in 1950, and it is 2.3 in 2010! It is almost the same as ours! Lo- It is a Muslim country. One cannot even talk about contraception.
Look at Pakistan. 7 in 1950, and 3, in 2010. Look at Iran- a whopping low of 1.9!
What is happening here?
The Demographic transition is a natural process. Whenever there is women empowerment, education, good healthcare, and urbanisation, the fertility drops. Women learn to say no. The lower Infant Mortality rate means that parents are sure of their children remaining alive over the long term. Many factors are at work here.
Distasteful as it is for me, for the sake of truth, let us look at the break up between religions.
Please remember that, though the birth rates of Muslims are more than that of Hindus, it is falling 1.5 times faster than those of Hindus. In the 2001 to 2011 period, while the Hindu Fertility rate, fell from 3.1 to 2.1, the fertility rate of Muslims fell from 4.1 to 2.7.
Decrease in the Hindu Fertility rate- 1 child.
Decrease in Muslim Fertility rate- 1.4 children.
A brief note on Christians. At the time of Independence, they were 2.3 percent. In 2011, after a lot of proselytizing, alleged forced conversions and the like, guess what it is now?
Well- 2.3 percent.
In 2011, 80 percent of Indians are Hindus. 14 percent are Muslims, and Christians are 2.3 percent.
We have projected Data from centres like the Pew Research Centre. If current trends continue (It should. There is no reason to think otherwise), in 2050, this great land of Hindustan will be 77 percent Hindus. Muslims will become 18 percent. That means, the other denominations will fall further.
In Kerala, the Fertility rate is 1.8. While the Hindu Fertility rate, from 2001 to 2011 has remained the same, the Muslim one has fallen by .3.
In short, while the number of people in our country is a concern, the Population Bomb has…….fizzled out.
The Malthus’s monster is dead.
What a miracle.
What do we do now?
Instead of wallowing in Propaganda, we need to ensure Education, and Health care.
Jobs for young people, anyone?
Equality of opportunity- has it gone out of fashion?
Lets us simplify Data, and understand the basics. Though our issues are complex, let us not complicate them further. (Jimmy Mathew)