Population explosion is a global problem. Of course, the term ‘over-population’ is relative. The density of population per square mile is about 350 in India, while in the USA it is about 41 per square mile. Thus over-population is assuming an alarming proportion in India.
Next to China, India is the most populated country in the world. According to the latest census report, the population of the country is about 1.30 billion (130 crores). Here the average annual rate of population growth is 2.5% while it is about 0.5% in the advanced Western countries. Thus every two years India adds some 25 million people to its number, which is more than the total population of Canada. The average life span has also been increased because of better preventive medicines, public health and hygienic measures and a considerable drop in infant mortality. In the first decade of the 21st century, there will be about 14% of people about the age of sixty in our country. Moreover, a part of the pressure of population in India is due to be an influx of refugees from Bangladesh and Pakistan. All these have led to the increasing pressure of population in our country.
Now how to provide food and accommodation to this increasing mass of people is a serious problem with which India is confronted. Instead of becoming a national asset, it has become a national liability. More children do not mean more workers of the future, but more people without work, more mouths to feed. And, therefore, the expenditure per capita is bound to be less. The poor people care a little for how to bring up the children properly. They do not care at all for their education. Though the government has undertaken a series of plans for economic development for raising the standard of living of the people, the growth of population has upset all the plans. The result is the poor are burdened with more poverty, more hunger, more distress and more disease. Prof. Amartya Sen, however, believes that the real problem is not so much the supply of food like that of the purchasing power of the common people to buy food materials.
The remedy lies in reducing the birth-rate by all approved means including the late marriage of boys and raising the marriageable age for girls. In addition to that more stress should be laid on the advancement of women education and literacy drive. We may cite an instance here. In Kerala where womenfolk are fairly educated, the average birthrate is the minimum in India. We should bear this point in the planning of our population control. Though family planning has been successful among educated people, it has proved to be a flop among the poor uneducated section of the community who form the bulk of the population. The family planning is also opposed by the orthodox Muslims though the progressive section feels its urgent need.
However, the situation is such that now we have to choose either control of population explosion or perpetuation of poverty in our country. The mass media, especially Television, can play a vital role in spreading the family planning programme with useful information. Above all, wide public awareness is the pressing need.