India and its Alarming disparity in the rate of Population Growth!
India and its Alarming disparity in the rate of Population Growth!

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India and its Alarming disparity in the rate of Population Growth!

Aug 28, 2018

India has a lot of births (approximately 360,000 per day) taking place. However, this can be attributed to its already large population of 1.3 billion. And it was actually only 2.4 births per woman which is actually a little below the global average of 2.5 births per woman. The UN stated that the 60 plus population of India will grow to 316.8 million by 2050, whereas estimates by HelpAge India pegged the number at 324 million. During 2000–2050, the overall population of India is expected to grow by 56% while the 60-plus population will increase by 326%. During the same period, the 80-plus population will grow 700% with a predominance of widowed and highly dependent very old women. In either case, the official forecast presents a significantly higher number of elderly persons in the population. 

India’s working population (age 15-64) bulge began in the 1950s and ideally should have ensured a very low number of “dependents” (ages 0-14 and 65-plus) based purely on demographics, boosting growth and resulting in a so-called demographic dividend.

A distinguishing feature in India is a significant interstate disparity. For example, southern states will have more elderly along with Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Punjab, according to the UNFPA report. The percentage of 60 plus population in these state varies from 9% to 12.3%, as per census 2011.

K.S. James, a population studies professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University said: “In a majority of states, the window of economic opportunity is really closing,”

While India’s overall population would grow for another 20-30 years, much of the growth would happen in poorer states, resulting in a huge spike in internal migration. “We should prepare for the associated social stress,” he said.

Population will increasingly become a significant dilemma that the Indian union will have to confront, because of the emerging wide disparities between the west and the south, and the north and the east, said Vivek Dehejia, an economist and senior fellow at think tank IDFC Institute. The central and northern states such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand have much lower proportions of the aged. 

“It’s going to have wide implications for everything from future finance commissions to the next electoral delimitation exercise. The median age in southern states has already started rising,” he added.

Most news about fertility rates tends to separate the data by religion. But given that states and not religious communities make up India’s constituent units, significant differences in population growth rates among states will affect Indian politics far more explicitly. There is a clear cleavage between South India and North India. The south has lower fertility rates, meaning that fewer babies are being born than people are dying. This is a trend that would eventually result in a declining population. In North, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar – two states that together make up a quarter of India’s population – have recorded very high fertility rates of 2.74 and 3.41, respectively. 

India has had to make its own adjustments in order to keep big and small states equally. In 1976, Parliament – then under the Emergency – passed a constitutional amendment that froze the number of seats each state had in Parliament as per the 1971 Census. The freeze was to end in 2000. Since it was so expedient, Parliament, in 2001, extended it till 2026. Thus, until 2026, Parliament’s seat composition will essentially represent a population snapshot taken more than 50 years ago.

India has tolerated this attenuation of the one-man-one-vote principle given the instability redistributing seats among states might cause. But considering the significant changes in population, the seats have to be redistributed. When that happens, the share of parliamentary seats of low fertility southern states will fall sharply.