On 15th of November 2022, the world marked a major milestone, when the size of global human family reached the historic mark of 8 billion. Our country India with its population share of 177 million (almost 17.70 per cent) is the largest contributor will be surpassing China, that was the second largest contributor (73 million) and whose contribution to the next billion will be negative, as the world’s most populous nation by 2023. The population report published by the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) pointed out that India’s population is growing at a pace of 0.7 % yearly.
Some people got worried that-isn’t 8 billion too many? The concept of earth carrying capacity, climate changes, poverty, crowded cities, and tryst of global population towards the five fundamental living amenities- bread, cloth, housing, education and health- are the source and solution of all this anywhere related to the Population Numbers. Focusing upon population numbers obscure real issues. The analysis of these numbers and sharing of mutual global policies and practices varying from climate change to conflict, from hunger to health across nations will be the key to turn 8 billion world into a world of infinite possibilities.
The above mentioned queries are also like an alarming clock for the largest democracy India, which is accelerating on a time-bomb of rising population. The global population is watching India as a hope for many of the solutions directly or indirectly inter-linked with the rise of population. Voice of India across multiple prestigious global forums is also being heard with much more supremacy; examples are all around praise for India’s sustainable Mission LiFE at COP-27, handing of G-20 presidency to India in 2022-23, praise for India’s Covid-19 handling strategy and Covid diplomacy.
India, which believes in the principle of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam i.e. world, is a global village, can guide the global human family with honest policy formulation and implementation attempt, decentralized SDG realization, fulfilling universal delivery of five basic amenities and ensuring human rights. The same is also reflected very well by India as the host nation of one of the most powerful multi-nation group- G-20 tagline-One Earth-One Family-One Future.
India while investing towards building more demographically diverse India can contribute in creating diverse world as well. These include more investment in maternal and child health, reproductive health, primary health care, health infrastructure, education infrastructure, steps to eliminate period poverty. Also, India coupling efforts to drive gender equality with the greatest youth generation in history through marvelous policy schemes by Government of India like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Make in India, Skill India Mission, Digital India, Start-up and Stand-up India, and supported by world class innovation in digital public goods can not only accelerate India’s quest of SDGs, but also, will assist the world to achieve the SDGs more than any other country.
Again, there is a complex linkage amid population, sustainable development and climate change, as rapid population growth makes eradicating poverty, combating hunger and malnutrition, and increasing the coverage of health and education systems more difficult. Conversely, achieving the SDGs, especially those related to health, education and gender equality, will contribute to slowing global population growth.
Some positive trend in favor of India is that India’s population growth appears to be stabilizing. The Total Fertility Rate — more or less the average number of children born per woman — has declined from 2.2 to 2.0 at the national level. A total of 31 States and Union Territories (constituting 69.7% of the country’s population) have achieved fertility rates below the replacement level of 2.1.
The main reasons for decline in fertility include: Increase in adoption of modern family planning methods (from 47.8% in 2015-16 to 56.5% in 2019-21) and a reduction in unmet need for family planning by 4% points over the same period. India understood importance of Family Planning even since its independence, and that is why it had launched the National Family Planning Programme as early as 1952. Between 2012 and 2020, India added more than 1.5 crore additional users for modern contraceptives thereby increasing modern contraceptive use substantially”.
Mission Parivar Vikas (MPV) 2016 has given further impetus to the National Family Planning Program. Under the scheme, innovative strategies like distribution of Nayi Pehel kits, Saas Bahu Sammelan and Saarthi vans are helping to reach out to community and initiate dialogues on Family Planning, healthy birth spacing and importance of small families. On digital intervention front, Medical Eligibility Criteria (MEC) Wheel Application, E-Module of Family Planning Logistics Management System (FPLMIS) and Digital Archive on Family Planning are really helpful.
Also, India Family Planning 2030 Vision Document indicates that there has been significant improvements in access to family planning related information and services occurred and way to go. In summary, it shows that India’s national population policies and health systems are working. India has witnessed a paradigm shift from the concept of population control to population stabilization to interventions being embedded towards ensuring harmony of continuum care.
India is a youthful nation with the largest cohort of young people anywhere in the world, with major potential to achieve its demographic dividend. While many parts of the world are ageing, India’s youthful population can be a global resource to solve global problems.
(Author is presently a Smart Cities Fellow-India Smart Cities Fellowship Program, NIUA-MoHUA)