I grew up in a country where the moment you step out on the street there are thousands of people surrounding you, travelling on local trains where people have to hang on the doors as there is not enough space was an everyday thing, getting stuck in traffic jams for hours was nothing new. All these incidents were very usual for me as I grew up in India, a country with diverse culture, enriched history and a huge population problem. India’s population in 2020 was estimated to be 138 crores which is 17.7% of the total world’s population. It is the second most populated country after China; and is expected to surpass China in coming years becoming the most populated country on earth.
India wasn’t always this populated, it had a gradual population growth until 1921 but after that year the numbers of births were increasing at an alarming rate. From then the population of 25.13 crores has escalated to 138 crores.
WHAT IS OVERPOPULATION?
Overpopulation can be defined as “A population which exceeds its sustainable size within a particular environment or habitat”. In simple words, when population of a species is more than the natural resources available. Overpopulation is caused due to alarming growth rate of masses which is called “population explosion”. India has seen a population explosion since 1951 when the population was 36.10 crores.
REASONS FOR OVERPOPULATION
Before 1950 India didn’t have a very efficient health care system but as the country started to develop and modernize after the independence in 1947, they started to develop a more systematic and well organized health care system for their citizens. The improvement in the health care system improved the quality of life as they started providing medicines, established new hospitals, reduced the cost of these facilities and made the public aware about the benefits of these provisions. The sudden improvements in medical facilities lead to decline in number of deaths that occurred due to insufficient and poor health care system. The infant mortality rate also reduced as better care was taken of pregnant women and the new born child. These developments gave way to the massive rise in birth rate. Rapid decline of death rates and sudden increase of birth rates created unbalance. The families of that time were expected to have more than 3 children and most of the population of that time was illiterate therefore they had no awareness regarding family planning. In the Indian society most of the people believe that a new born is a blessing of god and will become a helping hand in future so they treat the child as an asset rather than a liability, hence leading to people having more children.
Over population has adversely affected the Indian society, it has changed many aspects of our life. Day by day streets are becoming more crowded and the need for basic necessities can’t be fulfilled as there are too many demands. This has led to the rise of some new problems:
- PRESSURE ON LAND
The growth of human population has led us to use land in an excessive and ignorant way. People are constructing building, roads, bridges and other infrastructures without thinking about the consequences of these creations on our environment. In India the density of population per square kilometre was only 81 in 1921 but today it is 382, according to a research done in 2011. There is so much demand of houses but less land space that it has resulted in people living in slums in huge numbers and overcrowding the areas. Forests are being cut down due to the extreme construction of more building and land for other recreational activities for human benefits.
- PRESSURE ON FOOD
Through the years the land for cultivation and area for growth of crops has been decreasing enormously, although agriculture is not the occupation for more than 40% Indian citizens, (as many people have shifted their career to industrial sector) the demand for food is still tremendous. There is exceptionally less land left for cultivation and it has become almost impossible to make the ends meet for Indian population. The need for food has been rising day by day as the population increases but the expectancy to meet these demands is very less.
Through the decades, many new jobs have emerged with the process of urbanization. But even after having number of jobs available, many people are still unemployed because the number of humans is increasing day by day but the number of jobs accessible to public is increasing gradually which has resulted in rise of more unemployed people, even with an education qualification too.
Due to the heavy pressure of population and under development of the country, it has resulted in poor becoming poorer as the prices of necessities is increasing day by day and these people are jobless or have very low wage jobs which doesn’t fulfill their basic necessities. According to a Brookings report, 73 million Indians which makes up 5.5% of India’s total population live in extreme poverty. Although India has become one of the largest economies, the country still has a huge number of people living in extreme poor circumstances.
- ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION
To satisfy their personal needs, humans are using their surroundings and natural resources in an ignorant and irrational way. As demand for everything is huge now, deforestation has increased to acquire land for building houses which has resulted in animals losing their natural habitat. Air and water population has also risen due to the industrial sector generating lots of waste and then dumping it into rivers and oceans; they also release different type of toxins in the air which makes the air toxic and polluted. In general the growth of population has led to excessive use of limited resources which may cause problem in future as these resources are unsustainable.
India is soon going to be the most populated country in the world, as the readers may have observed that overpopulation only brings a few benefits but it is the root to lots of other issues. The government of India is trying to bring new laws, methods and programmes to decrease the population growth and make the citizens aware about the consequences and disadvantages of having a large population as it will help the country’s economy to grow and expand in a better way. The government of India has provided the following legal provisions to achieve its objective:
- RAISING THE AGE OF MARRIAGE
A huge number of marriages in India occur at a very young age resulting in a longer span of productivity in marriage. This leads to women to give birth to more number of children. Lower the age of marriage, higher the number of children born. Therefore, increasing the age of getting married would help in decreasing the number of births. In order to achieve this objective the government has introduced The Child Marriage Restraint Act in 1987, according to this act minimum age for a female to get married was raised to 18 and for males it was raised to 21. This act made child marriage a crime and if an individual conducts or performs child marriage he or she shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for 2 years or with a fine of one lakh rupees.
- LEGALIZATION OF ABORTION
In India, terminating an unwanted pregnancy was illegal and therefore these pregnancies have contributed a huge number of births to the rising population. But after the government passed The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act in 1971, which allows a pregnant woman above the age of 18 years to get her unwanted pregnancy terminated within 20 weeks by a certified and qualified doctor.
In India, an individual who has more than 2 children is considered ineligible to contest election for the local government in Assam from 2021. This was introduced to discourage individuals from having more than 2 children and make them aware of this issue.
- FAMILY PLANNING PROGRAMMES
India is the 1st country in the world to adopt family planning as an official programme in 1952. Objectives of this programme were to determine the number of children in the family, avoid unwanted births, and promote planned births. To achieve this objective government provides birth control devices like contraceptives (condoms), oral pills at affordable prices and sometimes free of cost. Availability of sterilization for both male and female, government also uses various media platforms for spreading awareness about this topic.
People believe that having many children is a blessing of god but they don’t realise soon this blessing will bring problems such as poverty, malnutrition in children, shortage of food, need for more land. Therefore we can presume that increasing population is not a blessing but rather a curse to humankind. The human species population has exceeded the carrying capacity of its ecological niche.  Every country has different causes for overpopulation, for example in India it is caused due to large number of people getting married at an early age, illiteracy in people which compels them to believe in superstition and lower status of women. Given below are some of my suggestions to help overcome the problem of overpopulation-
- Emphasis on children’s education-
Focusing on a child’s education will help reduce child marriage. If children in school from young age are taught about of family planning and benefits of having small families, they will implement this into their own lives.
- Improvement in the status of women-
Indian society is a patriarchal society. If we provide women with equal opportunities in every aspect of life such as jobs, education, career development it will result in decline of birth rate as most of the working and educated females would prefer having a planned family so as to not obstruct work and career development.
- Awareness programmes-
Government should invest more time on awareness programmes. Print media and electronic media can also play a crucial role in creating awareness among the masses regarding the problem of over population.
Hence, I would like to conclude by saying that to provide everyone with a better quality of life, population control is the need of the hour.
Author(s) Name: Ananya Singh (Sophia College, Mumbai)