May 08, 2010

Health Minister rules out law to control population growth

The government will not use legislation to control the country's swelling population.

According to Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, "We are not in favour of controlling population growth through any kind of legislation, but by way of generating awareness and persuading people to have a small family size for betterment of the health of the mother and child."

He said, "Population is a major concern. India is the world's second most populous country. Urgent steps need to be taken to stabilise the population for sustainable development."

According to Azad, India is following the demographic transition pattern of developing countries, from the initial levels of "high birth rate-high death rate" to the intermediate transition stage of "high birth rate-low death rate" which manifests in high rates of population growth, before attaining "low birth rate-low death rate".

More than 50% of the population is in the reproductive age of 15-49 years, which imparts momentum to the population growth.

"We have to bear in mind the carrying capacity of the land mass and resources available at our disposal. With a land area of 2.6% of total earth land, India has 17% of the world's population. The natural resources are limited and need to be used judiciously and equitably. Population stabilization should be brought back into focus," Azad said.

The population of India in 2001 was 1.02 billion and is projected to be 1.19 billion in 2011. It is estimated that in 20 years, India's population will exceed that of China.

According to the minister, various efforts are being made to bring down the rates of maternal mortality rate and infant mortality rate in the country, most significant of which has been the Janani Suraksha Yojana. Azad said the fertility and mortality rates are declining throughout the country though the magnitude of decline varies considerably across states. The total fertility rate has declined to 2.6 in 2008.

He added, "We have an objective of achieving replacement level fertility, that is, TFR of 2.1 by 2012. While 14 states have achieved this, some states are way behind and need to gear up their machinery to contain the population growth. Improving literacy levels, empowerment of women, increasing age at marriage and delaying first birth, also contribute to lowering the fertility rate."
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