Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Population and Development in India

India does recognize the role of population in its development. After independence, India’s population boomed, courtesy a remarkable dip in mortality. India’s population crossed 1 billion at the turn of the last century. In 2011, its population stood at about 1.21 billion. However, as mortality dipped, fertility declined too, thus decelerating the pace of growth from over 2% per annum (late 20th century) to about 1.64% now. The current total fertility rate is 2.5 births per woman. India’s demographic transition is clearly visible in the official data. Fertility and growth rate are expected to decline further. Yet, while fears of population explosion recede, India still adds 18 million people to its population every year.  India’s population growth now comes from the momentum of having a young population. Although mortality in India has declined substantially, compared to life expectancy of 22.9 years a century ago to 63.5 years in 2002–06, the level is unsatisfactory by global standards. Even after a decline, the infant mortality rate of 44 per 1,000 remains at an unacceptable level. Maternal mortality is also unacceptably high at 212 deaths per 100,000 live births (2007-09).  Fertility in India has declined through voluntary regulation, with less than half the couples of reproductive age using modern contraceptives. However, despite numerous contraceptives being available, the dominant method is female sterilization. The burden of contraception falls disproportionately on women. Though the age at which women marry has steadily risen, quite a few still marry before 18 years - the legal minimum age.
Future concerns
Increase of Elders
Fertility is decreasing. The share of the working age population has risen.  Over time, the numbers of the old will rise, as in developed world. Currently, families care for most Indian elders. Only a small section is covered by institutional support. An imminent rise in the number of the aged calls for institutional measures for old -age security.
More urbanization
India has urbanized slowly—only 31.2% of its population lives in urban areas as per 2011 census. However, due to the changing economy in the country, the urbanization trend is projected to touch 39.3% by 2026. Even at current levels, overcrowding is common; many urban citizens are compelled to live in unhygienic slum areas and, consequently, be deprived of basic services, including information/access to reproductive health services and adequate nutrition. As urbanization quickens, it is imperative to strengthen urban planning. Accordingly, a major urban renewal programme has recently been launched in India.
Sex ratio at birth
The dip in sex ratio at birth, due to pre-natal sex-selection, has been disturbing. Estimates indicate that the ratio is now over 106 boys per 100 girls, well within the normal [range 103–107]; in some regions, the numbers are very problematic, with the ratio crossing 110 boys per 100 girls. A law prohibiting prenatal sex detection is in force, but it will be effective only if it is implemented rigorously in all the regions, combined with mindset change in families and communities of the region.
Lack of equity
With socioeconomic disparities and rural–urban differentials persisting, some population groups are socially deprived. Thus, mortality among the poorer sections is above average. Through robust poverty alleviation schemes, there has been considerable success in reducing poverty as a whole. Now in 2009 -10, only 29.8% falls below poverty line .
Gender issues
Policy discourse has increasingly focused on reproductive rights, gender -based violence, men's involvement and quality of care. By 2011, literacy rates had risen to 65.5% for females and 82.1% for males, yet disparities persist. Various national policies have been formulated to address economic and social inequities faced by women. In the recent times, women’s participation in economic activities has shown an increase, but is still well below the potential. Some direct consequences of gender-based discrimination are clearly visible, such as a more skewed sex ratio at birth and high maternal mortality.
India’s population programme
India’s national planning process has integrated population as a key area since 1951. In 2000, the National Population Policy was reformulated to achieve long-term population stabilization by 2045 and replacement level fertility by 2010. The policy reiterated the commitment to voluntary and informed choice, and to citizens’ consent while accessing reproductive health care, including family planning. The immediate objective is to address the unmet need for contraception. However, population and health programmes cannot function in isolation. These have rightly been part of the overall socio-economic developmental policies.
Must Meet the emerging needs of Future India
Policy and programmatic responses are required to meet the emerging needs of changing age, sex structure and fertility patterns of India’s population and its urbanization.  Equity and gender concerns need to be kept center stage in addressing population and development priorities.

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