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Overpopulation in India- A ticking time bomb

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Overpopulation has been a sensational topic in recent times, with Union Minister Giriraj Singh hinting at a Population Control Bill (PCB) arriving soon. As per the latest data on Indian population, there are currently 1.3 Billion people residing in the country, with a net increase of 1.6% each year (after taking into account the deaths, formula being Gross Births – Gross Death = Net increase in population). According to the UN’s population division, India is projected to surpass China’s 1.4 Billion population by 2024. Despite China also facing a population explosion in the past, the one-child policy is seen to have helped control the growing population.

A Population Control Bill will put sanctions on those having more than two children from the date the bill is passed, the sanctions may include withdrawal of free healthcare or education rights, and higher taxation.

China’s one-child policy of 1980 made it a punishable offense for couples to have more than one child, those flouting the law became victims of forced abortions, sterilizations and economic sanctions. However, the 36 year span of this policy led to an increased rate of female infanticide, widening gap of male-female ratio, and increased pressure on hospitals and old age homes to care for senior citizens. In 2016, The People’s Republic of China put an end to this policy because of the flawed planning and execution.

Though China’s one-child policy was later found to be flawed, it became a ray of hope for other developing countries who are also suffering from overpopulation. Many world leaders have pondered over the viability of a two-child policy, which could potentially be effective at controlling growing populations in developing countries. In 2019, Rakesh Sinha, member of Rajya Sabha or the Upper House of the Indian parliament and associate professor at University of Delhi, introduced the Population Control Bill 2019 which aimed to enforce a two-child policy in India.

India’s population crisis has been one of the most unprecedented problems in modern history, since it puts immense burden on public infrastructure facilities such as water supply, electricity, and housing. India’s population density is at a worrisome 464/Km2, which makes the country 19th most densely populated according to UN estimates. The ranking may not concern many people when viewed at a pan-India level, but concerns arise when we look upon metropolitan cities in the country.

Mumbai, financial capital of India and home to Asia’s largest slum of Dharavi, ranks 5th in the world’s most densely populated cities. The effect of which can be seen when MCGM (Mumbai’s civic body, and Asia’s richest) is unable to provide pothole-free roads and manage water-logging every monsoon. The dense population of India has also been a key issue in the fight against COVID-19. During the 1920 Influenza outbreak, Mumbai was victim to widespread infections due to the tightly packed slum areas. In 1920, soldiers fighting Germany in the First World War returned to India through Bombay, and brought with them the influenza virus which had then plagued Europe.

Overpopulation has caused several problems to the public infrastructure system, and been a key determinant for inequalities in wealth and income-

  1. Burden on Infrastructure- Overpopulation and population explosion puts immense pressure on public infrastructure and government authorities, since they have to provide essential services to the population such as electricity, water supply and housing facilities.
  2. Rising Unemployment- Overpopulation leads to increased unemployment in the country, since there is a wide mismatch between job-seekers and job-givers. There aren’t enough jobs to sustain such a large population.
  3. Growing Urbanization- Overpopulation and unemployment in rural areas lead to mass urbanization from hinterlands to urban centres like Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. This puts an increased burden on civic authorities.
  4. Rising inequality of wealth and income- The mass unemployment makes the poor suffer, since they have to agree to low wages for sustaining their daily bread. The rich are able to get cheap labour and procure more profits- widening the gap between the two extremes.
  5. More Public Expenditure- Government authorities would have to spend more on healthcare, water supply and other basic services to care for the growing unemployment in the country, this money would be funded by taxes.
  6. Higher taxation- The government will finance these services by imposing higher taxation policies on the middle and upper class, increasing the burden on honest taxpayers.
  7. Public Debt- If the government cannot sustain despite the higher tax rates, it would have to borrow money from the World Bank or other financial institutions. This would increase the public debt and spiral into a debt trap.
  8. Increased crime- Urbanization in metropolitan cities will increase the friction between locals and new-comers. Poverty too comes with higher crime rates.    

Overpopulation is the key reason for worsening public finance and societal problems, a Population Control Bill will solve most of these issues and pave way for a better India for future generations.

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