Numbers surge, so does the pain

She is a mother of seven- three sons and four daughters; the eldest is hardly twenty and the youngest not more than five years old. The frail woman in early 40s who has been working for me as a part-time help for the past couple of years toils hard to support her large family. However, it’s not living but a pitiable existence. Her eldest son is a drug addict .The oldest daughter eloped with a boy who turned out to be alcoholic and later committed suicide. Now the daughter is back with two little kids to stay with her parents, eleven of them huddled in a single room.

Oh my God! What a wretched life! Thankfully they have a roof over their head, courtesy government’s EWS housing scheme. But can any amount of support in the form of subsidized housing, rations and LPG, free education and mid-day meals for children pull them out of the poverty line?

I pity the poor woman and her husband for their hardships and miseries but can’t help sympathizing with the children who have been pushed into the world of misery and deprivation without a choice. Similar story unfolds at the traffic signals where a family with three-four kids may be seen, one in the lap and another in the womb, making a living on begging. For sure, there are socio-economic factors to explain high TFR (average births per woman) among the poor but still I wonder what right the parents have to bear so many children if they cannot even provide the basic minimum necessities. We keep stressing upon freedom, the right of the people to reproduce but tend to dismiss the right of the children to a reasonable life which should ideally be the responsibility of the parents.

Stressing upon the need for family planning PM Modi remarked in his Independence Day speech, “Parents in India now need to give a serious thought to whether they will be able to fulfill child’s dream and aspirations and support a new life.” This, indeed, is pertinent to responsible parenthood. Of course, state must step in to mitigate poverty but that doesn’t entitle poor to act irresponsibly. They cannot go on multiplying poverty and thus adding to their own woes but also putting pressure on the countriy’s stressed resources.

It is important to bring the focus back on population, on an issue which had been relegated to the background. In fact, there has been a sense of complacency on the population front as the population growth rate steadily declined over the past few decades. However, with a huge population base; in absolute terms the addition is staggering, 66 crore added to India’s population between census 1971 and 2011. Presently the country’s population is around 137 crore, next to China’s population. Our population will surpass China’s population by the year 2027, not by 2050 as predicted earlier, to become the most populous country in the world.

Population situation continues to be worrisome.Let us not be misled by the propaganda of ‘Demographic Dividend’. The term coined by David Bloom is a myth and not a reality in Indian context. The benefit of a large percentage of young in the population gets dissipated in the absence of opportunities. Far from being an asset, the army of unemployed, uneducated youth can be potential threat to the peace and stability of the nation capable of turning demographic dividend into demographic disaster. Undoubtedly, large population is negatively impacting the quality of life.

The Prime-Minister’s concern and appeal for population control cannot be dismissed. Responsible parenthood is indeed critical to population control.

(Published in Chandigarh Tribune on 26 September, 2019)

20 Replies to “Numbers surge, so does the pain”

  1. It is a very thought provoking article,madam.In spite of so much efforts done by the government,the poor and the illiterate women pay no heed to it.Our society has to be changed and girls to be educated properly.

  2. The message is conveyed in well chosen words.Rama your style of writing is so good that i read your artickes several times.Keep it up

  3. Well analysed – but reproduction multiplies in absence of any other enjoyment in their lives. This population can never be an asset to the nation. The only way is to make a voluntary effort to engage and make these utterly poor aware of a better life – each one, teach and care for another one – may be people nearby or those working for us in various ways. Only then can the society be uplifted 🙏

    1. I also feel it is our moral responsibility to din the message of ‘Small family, happy family’ in the minds of people nearby and those working for us.

  4. A well written article as always. It’s a very old belief that the poor of our country have no other source of enjoyment hence they mindlessly produce children. But l fully agree with you that they do so without any sense of responsibility. There is no awareness of the consequences the family will suffer because of its unmanageable size. This awareness has to be created carefully because the country has already suffered at the hands of Sanjay Gandhi’s family planning initiative. A very sensitive and effective approach is called for.

    1. Thanks Ranjna ji for the insight into the sensitive subject. True, lack of sense of responsibility is a major factor behind surging numbers and multiplication of woes .
      Regarding the family planning program ,it definitely suffered a huge setback during the emergency but media and the opposition also played no less a role in relegating the issue of population control in the background.
      Imagine , Raj Narain, a father of eleven children defeated Mrs Gandhi in elections and was made the Health Minister of the country.The first step he took was dropping Family planning from the nomenclature of the ministry and dumping the program.

  5. life is very tough for some people-it’s only hard work ,no enjoyment. ‘Chota pariwar,sukhi pariwar’ concept should be widely accepted by all. Even our country is unable to bear this pressure of overloaded population.Every children esp.girls should be made aware of’ small family’ importance right from the very beginning-by syllabus,parents,society,media and teachers.You have touched the basic problem of our country in a very, very impressive way.

    1. Thanks Garima for sharing your views. True ‘small family is a happy family’ but ironically the people who can least afford many children have the most .With no dearth of family planning facilities now available in the country, how do we explain largew family size of poor – lack of awareness or I may say irresponsible behaviour?

  6. Very well written article Rama. Well our basic problem is illiteracy. These parents don’t even understand the meaning of population control. They have no right to produce if they can’t provide the basic facilities. Education is a must but Unfortunately our so called leaders are least concerned. Giving speeches n using all flowery words sound very nice but do they implement it practically? Only Kejriwal is doing a great job but one state cannot improve the whole country.

    1. Thanks Sukhi. Call it illiteracy, lack of awareness, irresponsible behavior but the result is there for all to see and bear the consequences.Sad indeed that such an important issue has been lying in the background for so long.

      1. Such a great thought… And a true picture of our society.. Education is one of the major way to eradicate such situations..

  7. My personal view is that mere appealing to good sense of the masses will not do much. Some really drastic measures are needed, although they may not be liked by many. Modiji is in excellent position to do so. Govt must keep on supporting the really needed, irrespective of family size but privileged positions and jobs must be denied to those who are responsible for indiscriminate multiplication. Starting with candidates for elections can be a good move. It may sound quixotic and absurd but what is the way out? Except a more effective but more unpopular compulsory family planning?

    1. ma’am , I feel absolutely the same. It is a critical issue which has been neglected by every government,rather dropped like a hot potato after emergency.Population control does not fit into vote bank politics.
      Though I have not said this explicitly, I favour strict measures for population control.

  8. Thanks dear.You know being an economics teacher how close the topic is to my heart. I really want more and more people to read it and spread the message.

  9. Yes ma’am , drastic measure are required, but no political party is ready to bell the cat,.. not interested in taking unpopular measures.

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