Is India’s population boon or bane? This is such a topic that has left everyone with a big question mark and indeed a debatable question with India holding over one billion people, i.e. more than a sixth of world’s population. The reason why people are perplexed to this question is because the population can be a boon as well as a bane, it depends how one take it, in which context.
Before moving on to the answers and concepts which will determine whether a population of about 1.8 billion is a boon or a bane, we must look at some stats and figures: it has been projected that India will be the most populous country of the world by 2025. By 2050, there will be around 9.1 billion human beings on our planet, up from 6.5 billion today of which 1.6 billion will reside in India. A country’s power lies in the hand of citizens and India’s growing population can mark India’s rising power. Technology, innovation, entrepreneurial skills, savvy India’s got in tones but these skills itself is not going to take us to the front ranks of the world.
The front ranks of the world will happen when billion plus population is empowered. China and India are the two fastest economies of the world and no one is to deny the fact that China is so far ahead right now that India’s momentum could easily get snuffed out. Looking at the history and forecasts made for India’s demography, one can say that India’s demography put her on the driver’s seat. Looking at the current scenario, half of the country’s population is younger than twenty-five. By 2020 the average age of the Indians will be 29 years compared to 37 years for China and 48 years for Japan.
This makes quite clear that in coming years, the efficiency of working age group in India will be more than any other country and productivity will increase with time. By 2050, China could have 90 million people in the eighty-five year plus group but India would still be a young country. (Bahl, Superpower? 2010) However, if India fixes its urban operating model, it has the potential to reap a demographic dividend from the increase—of around 250 million expected in the next decade—in the working-age population.
By 2025, nearly 28 percent of China’s inhabitants will be aged 55 or older, compared with only 16 percent in India, whose demographic profile is much more youthful. If India optimizes the productivity of its cities and maximizes their GDP, the economy could add more than 170 million urban workers to its labour force from 2005 to 2025, compared with 50 million in China over the same period. (Sankhe 2010) Population has two sides, just like the sides of a coin in a same way India’s population is a boon as well as bane.
This population of 1.18 billion which is considered as so called boon for the country is also the reason behind its stagnant growth in Human Development Index. HDI is not just the measure of the overall social growth of an economy but it is also a replica for the state to take certain economic measures to curb poverty, unemployment rate and form policies which leads to an increase in literacy rate, a balanced sex ratio and better education and health facilities in the country.
Today, India is ranked 119 as per the latest UNDP report, even though it is second fastest growing economies of the world and the only reason which could be mentioned for this stagnant growth is population, because this never ending increase population leads to higher poverty rate, unemployment rate and poor literacy rate. According to estimation in 2007, poverty rate is 25% while unemployment rate stood at 10.7%. Not only had this, per capita income is estimated to be $3,100 for the year 2009, though it has increased over the last two years since 2007 but no one can deny the fact that poor has become poorer and affluent has gone wealthier with time.
The increase in per capita income, in case of India, not suggests reducing social disparity but indicates an increase in the number of millionaires and billionaires in the nation. Population has become a reason for the increase in poverty as well as unemployment which for some time hinders the country’s development but slowly this very own population becomes the reason for our country’s success. But what is important, high ranking in HDI or the social benefits for the lower strata of the society? The answer will be different by two different people; the one who believes in overall social development of the economy will definitely go for the latter.
Government has the responsibility to cater to the needs of the general public in the society. But when it comes to population of over 1.8 billion, it’s not that easy job. What can government do to stop this increase in population? Apart from awareness amongst the masses, nothing, being a democratic nation it cannot impose ‘one child norm’. At the same time, this population contributes to the manpower, entrepreneurial skills, capital, etc. Therefore everybody is in jeopardy, whether they should favour an increase in population or take some serious measures to prevent this increase in population. Hence, there is no end to this debate and there will be altogether different set of arguments from different individuals, religions, castes and communities.