The two-word caption of today’s column may need a footnote at the outset. Even as the intended meaning of the words may become clear in the lines to follow, the first word is about the rate at which the country’s headcount is increasing from a given year to the next and the second is about the actual number added to the headcount in the year of reckoning. Having set the platform for taking up the various relevant issues concerning the land’s population, one is obliged to start with the questions a) Is the country more populous than its resources that support life also of all other forms, including the denizens of the forest, the winged species, water-borne fauna and the so-called strays? and b) Is the rate (estimated by demographers) of current annual addition high enough to worsen the land’s economic health in foreseeable future? These questions have not only been discussed in various forums and answered in two diametrically opposite ways in the not too distant past, even as the rate of increase in the country’s headcount has been made out in some circles as OK and there are no clues on the action needed to hold both the rate and the annual increment of the headcount in check. The views available on record oscillate between optimism at one extreme and pessimism at the other.
India being a land hosting people numerically on the cusp of 1.5 billion that fall into different classifications on well-known identities of faiths, tongues, ethnicity, creeds, cults, literacy levels and economic status, one has to take maximum care in raising the delicate issue of which of these identities is to be singled out for not falling in line with the nationally important task of moving towards an inclusive society, as often mentioned by the top brass in the government.
First and foremost, it is incongruent to ask any or every family at large, particularly the newly-weds, not to beget children ostensibly to arrest the country’s current population expansion. One is prompted to cite the Kannada idiom Hanihani goodidare halla…(which translates to: Little drops of water makes a mighty ocean) in the context of the simple phenomenon of each family’s progeny contributes to the land’s total mass of headcount. Now, coming straight to the issue of addressing the goal of restraining the steadily enlarging expansion of the country’s population, one has no option except to say that the message is lost on the people at large, given the various well-marked demands of different sections of the land’s diaspora based on their distinct identity, particularly the faith-driven identity.
The foregoing narrative including the point that the imperatives of generously procreating is not convincing to sections of one or the other faith in the land merits greater attention on one more count, namely, one out of 70 births yields a twin, according to a report. Thus, the compulsions of restricting increment in the land’s population applies to everybody in general and nobody in particular.