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HindustanTimes Tue,02 Sep 2014

New initiatives to check population needed

Arvinder Kaur, PTI   March 22, 2003
First Published: 11:27 IST(13/3/2003) | Last Updated: 14:19 IST(22/3/2003)

We the Billion
A Social Psychological Perspective on India's Population

Ragini Sen
Sage Publications
Pages: 323
Price: Rs. 480
 
In 50 years after independence, India trebled its population - from a base of 238.4 million in 1901, it stands at over a billion today. In three decades India's population will overtake China and it will become the world's most populous nation.

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Can we as a nation afford an annual addition of over 15 million? Is it sustainable? These are some of the questions that a new book asks.

The book We the Billion: A Social Psychological Perspective on India's Population says there is a need to consider population stabilisation as a high-priority area requiring immediate attention.

"Population stabilisation issue cannot be merely treated as a problem of statistics. The issue involves people who are affected by social and cultural influences. It is thus important that a model which accords primacy to the soft variables and provides insights into collective beliefs is carefully evolved and given due policy considerations," says the author Ragini Sen.

"Instead of a population policy that encompasses the entire subcontinent, the need of the hour is to have district-specific guidelines. The success stories of districts within each state can be benchmarked and the models based on these effective districts be made available to each state," says Sen.

The book says that the issue needs to be tackled in a holistic way. "A comprehensive government policy and communicable strategy is a pre-requisite. Population stabilisation efforts would benefit if the target-oriented approach is replaced by a reproductive health package," says Sen.

One of the major causes of population problem in India is the low level of female literacy and the low status accorded to women in society.

The book thus suggests a new policy which shifts the focus on elimination of dowry and prioritising of female literacy. The change in resource allocation will help women to move from the debit to the credit side in social cultural accounting; their negative representation will change and thereby their social, emotional and economic autonomy will increase.

This will directly control and lower fertility rates through a humane population stabilisation initiative, says the book. 

But if the elimination of dowry and educating the girl child are adopted and projected as the central and primary focus of the policy, they may increase the campaigns acceptability and lower fertility rates, the book elaborates.

Another important issue that the book deals with is the need to dispel the myth that overpopulation is a creation of the 'minorities'. Low fertility rates, recorded in states with a high percentage of Muslim and Christian population, attest that higher levels of fecundity attributed to minorities is a gross misrepresentation.

Sen says education irrespective of religion, lowers fertility rates. Hence, the minority bogey needs to be quashed with provision of relevant information. The book says that the "Us vs Them" divide has to be eliminated since it is inimical to social change.

(Press Trust of India)


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