India with a population of about 950 million (in 1997) accounts for 16 per cent of the world population, as compared to about 15 per cent a decade and a half ago. It is the second largest country in the world, next only to China with a population of about 1200 million (in 1995). Five countries (China with 21.7%, India with 16.0%, US with 5%, Brazil with 3.5% and Russia with 3%) account for nearly half (49.2%) of the world population.
The scale at which India’s population is increasing is simply mind- boggling. While the total population of our country in 1941 was 31.86 crore, it increased to 36.10 crore in 1951, 43.92 crore in 1961, 54.81 crore in 1971, 68.33 crore in 1981, and 84.43 crore in 1991 (India, 1992:9). It is expected to reach 103 crore by 2,001, 126 crore by 2016 and 140 crore by 2,030 according to estimates of the Registrar General as well as according to a World Bank study.
While between 1921 and 1951 the percentage of increase was 43.65, between 1961 and 1991 it was 92.2. The addition of 16 crore people in the 1981-91 decade means an addition of little less than 2 crore persons every year, or about 17 lakh persons every month, or about 74 thousand persons every day, or about 52 persons every minute. In comparison to this, the increase in number of persons per minute was 21 in the 1961-71 decade, 15 in the 1951-61 decade, and 8 in the 1941-51 decade. The essence of the date is that whereas the rate of growth of population during the middle decades of the present century was moderate, now it is faster as well as alarming.
The disaster of galloping population in India is that:
1. Every sixth person on the globe today is an Indian, and by the turn of the century, every fifth living person will be an Indian.
2. India adds about 10 lakh persons to its population every fortnight.
3. Addition to India’s population is an equivalent of a Chandigarh a week, two Bhopal a month, and an Australia every eight months. During 1981-91, addition to the population was to the tune of 113 million, equaling the combined population of France, the UK and Italy.
4. By 2035, India would overtake China as the world’s most populous nation. While the rate of annual population growth in India is 1.9 per cent, in China it is 1.2 per cent. Thus, while China’s population would double in 60 years, India’s population would double in 34 years.
5. Around 49 per cent of the increase in India’s population in one decade is from four states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh (known as BIMARU states).
6. More than three times as many couples enter the reproductive span than those leaving it, with the fertility rate of the younger group being three times higher than that of those passing out of the reproductive range.
7. At the present rate of growth, life for most Indians would be unbearable—medical facilities would be difficult to provide, expenses on education, housing, etc. would be exorbitant, technical and professional education would become the exclusive prerogative of the elite, and the scarcity of food would once again plunge more than half of the nation below the poverty line.
The goals of containing India’s population at the level of 1,000 million by the turn of the century and that the population growth rate would decrease to 1.2 per cent per annum by 2000 A.D. have receded beyond redemption. No amount of jugglery with statistics, particularly in relation to the acceptance of contraception by couples, can wish away the harsh reality that India’s population would reach 101 crore by 2000 A.D.