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The Secret Behind India’s Population ‘Success Story’

It’s one area where we’re all set to beat China.

11/07/2017 8:32 AM IST | Updated 11/07/2017 2:06 PM IST
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According to a recent UN report, India is set to surpass China's population by 2024... condition being China doesn't capture our land and count the inhabitants as its own by then. Ouch! But hey, we have nuclear warheads and Mahavir Singh Phogat, Isn't that deterrence enough? Evidently, the only entity capable of capturing our land is Google maps, so we are more or less cool.

In the 70s though, the Chinese population was 1.5x of India's. The fertility rates were comparable. So, how did India catch up this fast despite poorer life expectancy and infant mortality rate? Here's how.

We have always shied away from contraception or for that matter sex education...

In the year 1979, a Chinese missile scientist named Song Jian visited Europe, read some books, consulted a few mathematicians and came to the conclusion that China's population should be pruned to 700 million by 2080. China's population at the time was 940 million. So a reduction of 240 million in just 100 years, not accounting for future calamities like the plague, World War-III or Dhinchak Pooja.

And that's how the One Child Policy came into being. It was like designing a reverse binary tree. The only way you could have two kids was producing twins or a female firstborn. No wonder they flocked to the theatres to watch the story of an Indian man having three daughters. And then there was this infamous 4-2-1 phenomenon, where eventually one kid had to take care of four aged grandparents and two ageing parents, with no free healthcare and life expectancy in the 70s.

Imagine!

The policy was phased out in 2015 though, to be replaced by a two-child policy in China, and a two-hoarding policy in India (two Chinese phone hoardings per Indian citizen). Ahem, but more on that at a different time.

As it happens, India had realised the gravity of the population growth issue a bit earlier than China, when Indira Gandhi's youngest son Sanjay Gandhi ran a compulsory sterilisation Nasbandi drive during the Emergency days. In just one year 6.2 million people were sterilised (15 times more than what the Nazis managed). But there is scant evidence of it being effective as we have added exactly 100x that number—620 million—since then.

We have always shied away from contraception or for that matter sex education, I remember as a kid, in the days of dial-up internet and BPL colour TVs, some relatives were over at our place. Dinner was had, and as there was no WhatsApp at the time, the family converged for a round of Antakshari. No sweat. Suddenly our team had to sing a song which began with the letter "B" and I, a kid of 8 years, almost subconsciously started yelling:

"Bol sakhi bol tera raaz kya hai
Bol sakhi bol tera raaz kya hai
Kya hai Teri Khushi ka raaz
Tu bata de mujhko aaaaj"

MALA-D goliyaan, MALA-D hai mera raaz,
Baccho me antar ke liye,
Jeewan me khushi ke liye
Tum bhi apna lo aaj

MALA D, MALA D..."

Then I exhorted the group, "Sing a song starting with D, MALA D-D-D se end hua hai."

Population has a new name now—human capital (read TCS engineers). Fertility is dropping, Life expectancy is up and "Hum Do Humare Nau", is limited to a Bihari political family.

The elders were stunned, they silently agreed to let this pass. Nobody told me what it was, sex education be damned. So I kept thinking for the next four years that this was a low budget TV ad of that chocolaty candy—Melody—which for some reason had found favour with rural housewives.

It wasn't my fault their husbands hated condoms.

Fortunately times have changed, government rupees are spent on educating people to defecate under a roof OR pay taxes OR both. Population has got a new name now—human capital (read TCS engineers). Fertility is dropping, Life expectancy is up and "Hum Do Humare Nau", is limited to a Bihari political family.

PS: According to the previous UN estimation, India was supposed to cross the Chinese population by 2022, now we have pushed it to 2024. Congrats!

Happy Population day!

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