“Population explosion will cause many problems for our future generations,” the Prime Minister said during his speech. “We have to be concerned about population explosion. The centre as well as state governments should launch schemes to tackle it.” He went on to praise those who practise responsible family planning, stating “there is a vigilant section of public which stops to think before bringing a child into the world, whether they can do justice to the child, give them all that she or he wants. They deserve respect. What they are doing is an act of patriotism. Let us learn from them.”
India’s population currently numbers at over 1.3 billion and is anticipated to grow in the coming years, with the United Nations projecting that India will overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2027. Although India is expected to reduce its birth rates to replacement fertility levels within the next decade, its population is still expected to grow at a rate of 22.5 percent in the coming decades. There are expected to be approximately 300 million more Indians in the next 32 years.
The effects of such population growth on public health are evident, given that India’s public health system is already overstretched in terms of resources and personnel. This is likely to be exacerbated by the fact that India’s ageing population will account for a greater proportion of the total number of citizens: currently, elderly Indians account for six percent of the population. By 2050, they are expected to account for thirteen percent. Meanwhile, the younger generation – currently representing one in every four Indians – is expected to account for nineteen percent of the population by 2050. Such a demographic shift – and the increased rates of noncommunicable diseases more common in later life likely to accompany it – carry the potential to further stretch resources.
It is promising, therefore, that the Prime Minister has drawn attention to the issue of family planning. However, a rethink is needed. In 2017, more than half of Indians of reproductive age did not use modern contraceptives. Meanwhile, many family planning initiatives emphasise sterilisation, especially of women. Sterilisation accounts for 85 percent of the country’s family planning budget, in lieu of methods such as contraceptives, birth control, and hormonal injections. Promoting these and expanding access to them are vital – for the sake of public health in particular, as Modi noted.
“In the 21st century, we as citizens of this country need to understand that development and prosperity begin only when individuals are healthy and resourceful,” the Prime Minister said. “As there are so many illnesses around efforts cannot just be at the government level. Everyone has to contribute.”