Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Blue Billion

During the last two decades of the 20th century, "Family Planning" was a big buzz word in India. The state owned Door-Darshan regularly broadcast public interest messages like "Hum Do, Hamare Do" and "Small Family, Happy Family". Streets were littered with sundry posters showing a family of 3, inside an inverted red triangle. There were endless debates in the print media about the limited success achieved by one of the oldest Family Planning Programmes in the world, and how the nation was hurtling towards a Malthusian Crisis as a result. The Population Explosion in India was regarded as the single biggest deterrent to the country's economic progress.

But such overt population control initiatives are conspicuous by their absence in India today. Door-Darshan no longer beams Family Planning messages incessantly, inverted red triangles no longer decorate the streets, and the print media too seems to have forgotten Thomas Malthus.

What could be the reason for this change in attitude? Is it because the Indian govt. and intelligentsia have, after decades of futile attempts, given up on any hope of reining in the burgeoning populace? Or is it because we now feel that Indian agriculture is developing at a rate good enough to beat a Malthusian crisis?

Or is it because of the realization that India's population is not it's biggest problem, but it's greatest asset in the changing global economic environment? Is it because recent studies have revealed that while other giants like China have an ageing population, a great percentage in India's population is still young, and hence will be able to provide the man-power needed to fuel the service economy in the decades to come?

I am inclined to believe in the second line of thought.

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