We Don’t Need a Population Control Bill

One of the most heated topics of last week was THE UTTAR PRADESH POPULATION (CONTROL, STABILIZATION AND WELFARE) BILL, 2021. I think, it has become a tradition from the last few years to draft at least one controversial bill every year. And this is the latest entry to that list. There are many myths about the population in india which needs to be busted. Also, as we will see later, this bill has nothing to do with the real issues as is claimed, but is purely a political gimmick. So let’s start.

UP CM Yogi Adityanath, while unveiling the bill, said, “Across the world, concerns have been raised from time to time about increasing population being a hurdle in development. Discussions on it have been going on for the past four decades.

But is this statement true? As Ruchir Sharma writes in The Ten Rules of Successful Nations,

“Consider my database of the fifty-six postwar cases in which a country sustained an average economic growth of 6 percent or more for at least a decade. In three out of every four… the working age population grew at an average pace of at least 2 percent a year. In short, if a country’s working age population growth rate is not above 2 percent, the country is not likely to enjoy a long economic boom.”

The point being, more people in the workforce would mean more potential for a country to grow at a rapid pace.

Now let’s look at India’s Total Fertility Rate in past few decades. Total fertility rate is basically the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime.

World Bank

As Vivek Kaul writes,

“Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund write in Factfulness—Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think:

“Parents in extreme poverty need many children… for child labour but also to have extra children in case some children die… Once parents see children survive, once the children are no longer needed for child labour, and once the women are educated and have information about and access to contraceptives, across cultures and religions both the men and the women instead start dreaming of having fewer, well-educated children.””

So as we saw in the graph, our fertility rate went from 6 in 1960 to 2.2 in 2019 without any population control measures, but because of economic prosperity and education levels.

Now, generally the replacement fertility rate is considered to be 2.1. Replacement Fertility rate is the rate at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next. It basically means, if total fertility rate becomes less than 2.1, the population starts decreasing. This is surely not what we want. As Sharma writes, “…[T]he European Commission Warned in 2005, “Never in history has there been economic growth without population growth.””

Another myth about Indian population, as many BJP leaders have claimed, is that the muslim community is responsible for the ‘population explosion’ (a term which in itself is not true as we saw earlier). As S.Y Quraishi writes,

While Muslim fertility has indeed been highest, it is because of illiteracy, poverty and poor access to health services — the three critical determinants of fertility behaviour… According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), in 22 states, the fertility rate of Muslims was lower than the Hindus of Bihar. If religion was the determining factor,  Muslims all over the country would be procreating more. This brings out the fact that socioeconomic conditions, rather than religion, influence fertility behaviour.

Moreover, if we compare total fertility rates of hindus and muslims from the censuses of 2001 and 2011 then Muslims have seen a larger decline. As Saswata Ghosh writes,

The TFR has declined from 3.1 to 2.1 among Hindus, and from 4.1 to 2.7 among Muslims – a decline of 1.4 children per woman… [Also,] The gap in TFR between Muslims and Hindus (TFR among Muslims – TFR among Hindus) between 2001 and 2011 has been reduced by 0.4 children per woman at the national level

To conclude, population control bill has no logic behind it. Further, the Supreme Court should also look whether this bill violates the right of women to make reproductive choices.

I see a lot of letter to the editor these days which supports this bill. The common conception (or misconception I should say) is that india lags behind other nations because of its population. Well, one should remember that with this population we have also achieved double digit growth at some point of time. We live in an age where we can get free news from whatsapp, and don’t need to go anywhere else. But, how much reliable are free products? Ask your nearest supermarket that.

Daniel Kanheman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass R. Sunstein write in Noise,

Sure Enough, some people are more receptive than others to bullshit. They can be impressed by “seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as and meaningful but are actually vacuous.”

Therefore, my only advise would be to turn on your bullshit receptors and not depend on whatsapp.

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