Thursday, 2 July 2020

Population: Hurdle or Dividend?

Updated: December 12, 2017 11:09 am

Poverty within itself is the biggest form of threat to any developing country. Growth of the country is exhausted, if a large section of society is not able to attain the minimum quality of life that of being enjoyed by the urban lower middle class. India is the second biggest home of world population with 1.324 billion people, nearly a fifth of  the world. 50 per cent of Indian population are below the age of 25 and approximately 65 per cent are below the age of 35. It is being perceived that, till 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years, in comparison to 48 of Japan and 37 of China. A large section of researchers, who are working on this issue, call it population dividend. These researchers even claim it to be an opportunity for India to provide workforce to other develop ing countries, which have a minimal population.  Recently, UK-based accounting firm, Deloitte, in its report said that India with over 65 per cent of population below the age of 35 will supply more than half of potential workforce over the coming decades in Asia, which is suffering from ageing population. However, India will have to first equip its workforce with necessary skills to contribute to the national economy in order to garner dividends of its demographic potential.  However, the question arises here: How can India produce manpower if maximum number of people are unskilled? However, it cannot be gainsaid that government of the day is working hard to skill Indians. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the ruling government has launched some relevant schemes like Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) and UDAAN to enable a large number of Indian unskilled youths to take up industry. Relevant skill training will help them in securing a better livelihood.

The fact of the matter is, how can any government provide jobs to all Indian youths, when the population of this country is persistently increasing? Perhaps, it would be ‘easier said than done’ for any government to achieve this target. Government sector has limited jobs, therefore, it would be dishonest to blame the government. It means, people will have to depend on private and unorganised sectors. The most important aspect that needs to be addressed is the fact that due to quick demand of products by customers, private and unorganised sector companies are adopting robotic workforce, which are clearly weakening the job sectors. For this reason, it becomes necessary to control this population bomb. In this regard, the idea of the government to tackle it by skilling youths is a small but good step.  This growing population is also a threat to limited resources of the country. India is the home to one in three of the poor population worldwide. India is the country with the largest number of people living under the  international USD 1.90-a-day poverty line–India accounts for the second-largest poor population of the worldwide.

According to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2017 report, 190.7 million Indians are undernourished. By this measure 14 per cent of the Indian population are undernourished, 38 per cent of the children aged under five in India are too short for their age, while 21 per-cent  Indian people suffer because their weight is too low compare to their height. Malnourished children have higher risk of death from common childhood illnesses like diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria. Once again this overpopulation looks like the biggest threat to providing minimum quality of life.

Now, if we take a glimpse of Indian medical system, it is totally horrifying; there is seven doctors for 1000 people in hospitals and the states like Bihar, Chhattisgarh have the worst ratio due to this overpopulation. Not only this, the overall expenditure on health has gone up smoothly over the years. It is estimated that over 60 per cent of the total out-of-pocket expenditure is on health, both in rural and urban India. Though, in national health policy, government has pledged to take affirmative action to reach the poorest of the poor. It would mean minimizing disparity on account of gender, poverty, caste, disability, other forms of social exclusion and geographical barriers. It would imply greater investments and financial protection for the poor who suffer from the largest burden of disease. Therefore, this also justifies that this overpopulation comes as implication to make availability of primary healthcare to all Indian citizens.

For a long time, India has witnessed more unrest in society due to its lowest number of police forces  and Data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) clearly attracts one’s attention. India’s ratio of 138 police personnel per lakh of population is the fifth lowest among the 71 countries. For example, if we look at some criminal incidents, we can apparently understand the pathetic situation of our police forces. Some months back  Bashirhat and Kaliachak of West Bengal witnessedcommunal incidents and at both places the West Bengal police was not  capable of preventing these communal activities because of the huge gathering of mob, more than that of forces. Economically, increasing the number of police forces might not be rightful and sustainable for any state.

This overpopulation is also not in favour of agriculture. Farmers are facing grim situations, as their land  is getting shrinking due to divisions in family and as a result of this expenditure in farming is going up. Owing to this, now farmers are migrating from rural areas to urban areas in search of basic quality of life. According to Economic Survey 2016-17, Delhi was the largest recipient of migrants, accounting for more than half the number in 2015-16. People from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar accounted for almost half the migrants in the same period.

The survey reveals that states like Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat contain a large numbers of migrants from the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh.

The instances which have been mentioned above consistently point out that overpopulation in India is a hurdle rather than a good asset. Hence, it is high time the government took appropriate action. This action will not only be beneficial for the implementation of government schemes but also will be sustainable in context of providing basic quality of life to the poorest of the poor.

By Ravi Mishra

 

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