India overpopulation by C0q0R730


									India's census will only confirm the obvious: the nation is
Special to the Japan Times

The ongoing census in India, the sixth since its independence in 1947, is bound to unfold an
ocean of data, perhaps bewildering to an outsider given the country's complex social and caste
But the gigantic exercise in enumeration -- which will end Feb. 28 -- is sure to reaffirm an
already well-known and disturbing trend: the galloping climb in population.
India is home to over 1 billion people, making it the second most populous nation after China,
which is geographically much larger.
The nation is groaning under the weight of its inhabitants. India holds a whopping 16.7 percent
of the global population on a mere 2.2 percent of the earth's landmass.
Each year, the country adds 18 million people, roughly another Australia. By 2045, it will have
overtaken China. Indeed a grim scenario.
World Watch, a Washington-based environmental research organization, commenting on India
reaching the 1 billion mark last year, said that it was a cause for deep sorrow in a nation where
almost half the adults are illiterate, more than half the children are undernourished and one-third
of the people are below the poverty line.
Yet successive governments, including the current one, have merely paid lip service to the
overpopulation problem.
During the country's civil emergency in 1975-76, the late Sanjay Gandhi went overboard in the
opposite direction and implemented an infamous forced sterilization program.
What Gandhi did cannot be supported, but the virtually unchecked rise in India's population does
need firm and concerted efforts.
The government has never addressed the question the right way. Family planning, for instance,
has never been given the priority it screams for.
Only 44 percent of Indian couples use any form contraception at all. Of those that do, 98 percent
go in for tubal ligations. Vasectomies are much less complicated to perform, but are perceived as
"a threat to manhood," and are rare. Condom usage is a miserable 2 percent.
Two key things that would help are improved female literacy and health care, but the
government is doing very little here.
Rahul Singh, who has written a book on family planning, said: "Take, for example, Indonesia, an
almost entirely Muslim state. When it got its independence, it had a literacy rate of just 12
percent (India's at the time of its own independence was 22 percent). Its life expectancy rate --
the best indication of health care -- was far below the 39 years of Indians. In the 1970s, soon
after Gen. Suharto took over, the country got a financial bonanza of several million dollars in
extra revenue from higher oil prices. He put them straight into primary education, health care and
family planning."
Today, Singh says, Indonesia's literacy rate is 84 percent (India's is about 60 percent, and even
this is misleading, because many of the so-called literates can barely manage to sign their names)
and life expectancy has risen to 62 years (India's is 63).
India needs to go on a massive literacy drive and improve its health care. The use of condoms
has to be popularized.
The government must realize that an exploding population will negate growth in just about every
other field.
The current census can be useful for the government to take a fresh look at its population and
formulate a more effective policy to keep this number under check. Otherwise, there is a very
real danger of food shortages, still inadequate education and hospital facilities, and, above all,
increasing poverty levels.
The Japan Times: Feb. 23, 2001

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