Can India Sustain Economic Growth Amidst Exploding Population and Depleting Resources?

India is expected to surpass China as the world's most populous nation by 2025. As the Indian population rises rapidly amidst its depleting land and water resources, the widespread hunger problem could grow worse unless serious steps are taken now to remedy the situation.





The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reported last year that hunger in India has grown over the last three years.



IFPRI said India's hunger index score has worsened over the last three years from 23.7 to 23.9 to 24.1 and its ranking moved from 66 to 65 to 67 on a list of 84 nations....while Pakistan's hunger index score has improved over the same period reported since 2008 from 21.7 (2008) to 21.0 (2009) to 19.1 (2010) and its ranking has risen from 61 to 58 to 52.



In 2011, the situation in India is only getting worse with double-digit food inflation and growing shortages of basics like onions.

With the growing population and worsening water shortages, the prognosis for hunger in India is not good, according to the author of National Geographics cover story in its latest issue on population.

India is ranked 33rd and Pakistan 39th among the most overcrowded nations of the world by Overpopulation Index published by the Optimum Population Trust based in the United Kingdom. The index measures overcrowding based on the size of the population and the resources available to sustain it.

India has a dependency percentage of 51.6 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.77. The index calculates that India is overpopulated by 594.32 million people. Pakistan has a dependency percentage of 49.9 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.75. The index calculates that Pakistan is overpopulated by 80 million people. Pakistan is less crowded than China (ranked 29), India (ranked 33) and the US (ranked 35), according to the index. Singapore is the most overcrowded and Bukina Faso the least on a list of 77 nations assessed by the Optimum Population Trust.



Here are some excerpts from National Geographics' cover story "7 Billion and Counting":

In 1966, when Ehrlich took that taxi ride, there were around half a billion Indians. There are 1.2 billion now. Delhi’s population has increased even faster, to around 22 million, as people have flooded in from small towns and villages and crowded into sprawling shantytowns. Early last June in the stinking hot city, the summer monsoon had not yet arrived to wash the dust from the innumerable construction sites, which only added to the dust that blows in from the deserts of Rajasthan. On the new divided highways that funnel people into the unplanned city, oxcarts were heading the wrong way in the fast lane. Families of four cruised on motorbikes, the women’s scarves flapping like vivid pennants, toddlers dangling from their arms. Families of a dozen or more sardined themselves into buzzing, bumblebee-colored auto rickshaws designed for two passengers. In the stalled traffic, amputees and wasted little children cried for alms. Delhi today is boomingly different from the city Ehrlich visited, and it is also very much the same.




At Lok Nayak Hospital, on the edge of the chaotic and densely peopled nest of lanes that is Old Delhi, a human tide flows through the entrance gate every morning and crowds inside on the lobby floor. “Who could see this and not be worried about the population of India?” a surgeon named Chandan Bortamuly asked one afternoon as he made his way toward his vasectomy clinic. “Population is our biggest problem.” Removing the padlock from the clinic door, Bortamuly stepped into a small operating room. Inside, two men lay stretched out on examination tables, their testicles poking up through holes in the green sheets. A ceiling fan pushed cool air from two window units around the room.

Bortamuly is on the front lines of a battle that has been going on in India for nearly 60 years. In 1952, just five years after it gained independence from Britain, India became the first country to establish a policy for population control. Since then the government has repeatedly set ambitious goals—and repeatedly missed them by a mile. A national policy adopted in 2000 called for the country to reach the replacement fertility of 2.1 by 2010. That won’t happen for at least another decade. In the UN’s medium projection, India’s population will rise to just over 1.6 billion people by 2050. “What’s inevitable is that India is going to exceed the population of China by 2030,” says A. R. Nanda, former head of the Population Foundation of India, an advocacy group. “Nothing less than a huge catastrophe, nuclear or otherwise, can change that.”

Sterilization is the dominant form of birth control in India today, and the vast majority of the procedures are performed on women. The government is trying to change that; a no-scalpel vasectomy costs far less and is easier on a man than a tubal ligation is on a woman. In the operating theater Bortamuly worked quickly. “They say the needle pricks like an ant bite,” he explained, when the first patient flinched at the local anesthetic. “After that it’s basically painless, bloodless surgery.” Using the pointed tip of a forceps, Bortamuly made a tiny hole in the skin of the scrotum and pulled out an oxbow of white, stringy vas deferens—the sperm conduit from the patient’s right testicle. He tied off both ends of the oxbow with fine black thread, snipped them, and pushed them back under the skin. In less than seven minutes—a nurse timed him—the patient was walking out without so much as a Band-Aid. The government will pay him an incentive fee of 1,100 rupees (around $25), a week’s wages for a laborer.

The Indian government tried once before to push vasectomies, in the 1970s, when anxiety about the population bomb was at its height. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay used state-of-emergency powers to force a dramatic increase in sterilizations. From 1976 to 1977 the number of operations tripled, to more than eight million. Over six million of those were vasectomies. Family planning workers were pressured to meet quotas; in a few states, sterilization became a condition for receiving new housing or other government benefits. In some cases the police simply rounded up poor people and hauled them to sterilization camps.

The excesses gave the whole concept of family planning a bad name. “Successive governments refused to touch the subject,” says Shailaja Chandra, former head of the National Population Stabilisation Fund (NPSF). Yet fertility in India has dropped anyway, though not as fast as in China, where it was nose-diving even before the draconian one-child policy took effect. The national average in India is now 2.6 children per woman, less than half what it was when Ehrlich visited. The southern half of the country and a few states in the northern half are already at replacement fertility or below.

In Kerala, on the southwest coast, investments in health and education helped fertility fall to 1.7. The key, demographers there say, is the female literacy rate: At around 90 percent, it’s easily the highest in India. Girls who go to school start having children later than ones who don’t. They are more open to contraception and more likely to understand their options.


SO FAR THIS APPROACH, held up as a model internationally, has not caught on in the poor states of northern India—in the “Hindi belt” that stretches across the country just south of Delhi. Nearly half of India’s population growth is occurring in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh, where fertility rates still hover between three and four children per woman. More than half the women in the Hindi belt are illiterate, and many marry well before reaching the legal age of 18. They gain social status by bearing children—and usually don’t stop until they have at least one son.

As an alternative to the Kerala model, some point to the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, where sterilization “camps”—temporary operating rooms often set up in schools—were introduced during the ’70s and where sterilization rates have remained high as improved hospitals have replaced the camps. In a single decade beginning in the early 1990s, the fertility rate fell from around three to less than two. Unlike in Kerala, half of all women in Andhra Pradesh remain illiterate.

Amarjit Singh, the current executive director of the NPSF, calculates that if the four biggest states of the Hindi belt had followed the Andhra Pradesh model, they would have avoided 40 million births—and considerable suffering. “Because 40 million were born, 2.5 million children died,” Singh says. He thinks if all India were to adopt high-quality programs to encourage sterilizations, in hospitals rather than camps, it could have 1.4 billion people in 2050 instead of 1.6 billion.

Critics of the Andhra Pradesh model, such as the Population Foundation’s Nanda, say Indians need better health care, particularly in rural areas. They are against numerical targets that pressure government workers to sterilize people or cash incentives that distort a couple’s choice of family size. “It’s a private decision,” Nanda says.

In Indian cities today, many couples are making the same choice as their counterparts in Europe or America. Sonalde Desai, a senior fellow at New Delhi’s National Council of Applied Economic Research, introduced me to five working women in Delhi who were spending most of their salaries on private-school fees and after-school tutors; each had one or two children and was not planning to have more. In a nationwide survey of 41,554 households, Desai’s team identified a small but growing vanguard of urban one-child families. “We were totally blown away at the emphasis parents were placing on their children,” she says. “It suddenly makes you understand—that is why fertility is going down.” Indian children on average are much better educated than their parents.

That’s less true in the countryside. With Desai’s team I went to Palanpur, a village in Uttar Pradesh—a Hindi-belt state with as many people as Brazil. Walking into the village we passed a cell phone tower but also rivulets of raw sewage running along the lanes of small brick houses. Under a mango tree, the keeper of the grove said he saw no reason to educate his three daughters. Under a neem tree in the center of the village, I asked a dozen farmers what would improve their lives most. “If we could get a little money, that would be wonderful,” one joked.

The goal in India should not be reducing fertility or population, Almas Ali of the Population Foundation told me when I spoke to him a few days later. “The goal should be to make the villages livable,” he said. “Whenever we talk of population in India, even today, what comes to our mind is the increasing numbers. And the numbers are looked at with fright. This phobia has penetrated the mind-set so much that all the focus is on reducing the number. The focus on people has been pushed to the background.”

It was a four-hour drive back to Delhi from Palanpur, through the gathering night of a Sunday. We sat in traffic in one market town after another, each one hopping with activity that sometimes engulfed the car. As we came down a viaduct into Moradabad, I saw a man pushing a cart up the steep hill, piled with a load so large it blocked his view. I thought of Ehrlich’s epiphany on his cab ride all those decades ago. People, people, people, people—yes. But also an overwhelming sense of energy, of striving, of aspiration.
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Some parts of it may well be; some parts of it are hellish today. There are now 21 cities with populations larger than ten million, and by 2050 there will be many more. Delhi adds hundreds of thousands of migrants each year, and those people arrive to find that “no plans have been made for water, sewage, or habitation,” says Shailaja Chandra. Dhaka in Bangladesh and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are 40 times larger today than they were in 1950. Their slums are filled with desperately poor people who have fled worse poverty in the countryside.
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The World Bank has predicted that by 2030 more than a billion people in the developing world will belong to the “global middle class,” up from just 400 million in 2005. That’s a good thing. But it will be a hard thing for the planet if those people are eating meat and driving gasoline-powered cars at the same rate as Americans now do. It’s too late to keep the new middle class of 2030 from being born; it’s not too late to change how they and the rest of us will produce and consume food and energy. “Eating less meat seems more reasonable to me than saying, ‘Have fewer children!’ ” Le Bras says.

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For centuries population pessimists have hurled apocalyptic warnings at the congenital optimists, who believe in their bones that humanity will find ways to cope and even improve its lot. History, on the whole, has so far favored the optimists, but history is no certain guide to the future. Neither is science. It cannot predict the outcome of People v. Planet, because all the facts of the case—how many of us there will be and how we will live—depend on choices we have yet to make and ideas we have yet to have. We may, for example, says Cohen, “see to it that all children are nourished well enough to learn in school and are educated well enough to solve the problems they will face as adults.” That would change the future significantly.

The debate was present at the creation of population alarmism, in the person of Rev. Thomas Malthus himself. Toward the end of the book in which he formulated the iron law by which unchecked population growth leads to famine, he declared that law a good thing: It gets us off our duffs. It leads us to conquer the world. Man, Malthus wrote, and he must have meant woman too, is “inert, sluggish, and averse from labour, unless compelled by necessity.” But necessity, he added, gives hope:

“The exertions that men find it necessary to make, in order to support themselves or families, frequently awaken faculties that might otherwise have lain for ever dormant, and it has been commonly remarked that new and extraordinary situations generally create minds adequate to grapple with the difficulties in which they are involved.”

Seven billion of us soon, nine billion in 2045. Let’s hope that Malthus was right about our ingenuity.


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Seven Billion and Counting

NPR Discussion on 7 Billion and Counting

South Asia's Rising Population and Declining Resources

Environmental Degradation at Siachen

Climate Change Worsens Poverty in India

World's Biggest Polluters

Global Warming Impact on Pakistan

Indian Rural Poverty Worsens

Climate Change Impact on Karachi, South Asian Megacities

Water Scarcity in Pakistan

Syeda Hamida of Indian Planning Commission Says India Worse Than Pakistan and Bangladesh

Global Hunger Index Report 2009

Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India

Food, Clothing and Shelter For All

India's Family Health Survey

Hunger and Undernutrition Blog

Pakistan's Total Sanitation Campaign

Is India a Nutritional Weakling?

Asian Gains in World's Top Universities

India's Vulnerability to Climate Change

South Asia Slipping in Human Development

What Does Democracy Deliver in Pakistan

Do South Asian Slums Offer Hope?

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
India's continued economic growth will be at risk unless quick action is taken to improve the health of its growing population, a report says carried by the BBC:

It says that India is in the early stages of a chronic disease epidemic which affects the health of both rich and poor people.

It calls for a comprehensive national health system to be set up by 2020.

The report consists of a series of studies published by the British medical journal, The Lancet.

"Rapidly improving socio-economic status in India is associated with a reduction of physical activity and increased rates of obesity and diabetes," says the paper on chronic diseases and injuries - led by Vikram Patel from the Sangath Centre in Goa.

It says that Indians are growing wealthier but exercising less and indulging in fatty foods.

They also risk injury by driving more often and faster on the country's notoriously dangerous roads, often under the influence of alcohol.

"The emerging pattern in India is characterised by an initial uptake of harmful health behaviours in the early phase of socio-economic development," Mr Patel's paper says.

He and other authors of the report argue that the problem can only be tackled by better education, because bad habits tend to decline once consumers become aware of risks to their health.

The report states that overall the poor in India are the most vulnerable to diseases - and are further burdened by having to pay for healthcare in a country where health indicators lag behind its impressive economic growth figures.

The study also says it is important that India, with its fast-growing population soon exceeding 1.2 billion, takes steps to prevent illnesses such as heart or respiratory diseases, cancer and diabetes.

It says that this can be funded by gradually increasing public expenditure and implementing new taxes on tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy foods.
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Riaz Haq said…
Here are some interesting highlights from a paper "Land-use Changes and Agricultural Growth in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, 1901-2004" by Takashi Kurosaki:

1. In India and Pakistan, the area under forests and under cultivation increased substantially throughout the post-independence period. The annual growth rates were higher in Pakistan than in India: the forest area increased at an annual growth rate of 1.91% and 0.75% in Pakistan, well above the figures of British India before independence. In India, the growth rates were lower than in Pakistan but comparable to rates recorde before independence.

2. During post-independence period, output (Q) in Pakistan grew at 3.5 percent per annum while Output/Area (Q/A) increased at 2.3 percent. Therefore, the major contribution to agri growth after independence came from increase in land productivity.

3. The level of growth was highest in Pakistan, followed by India, with Bangladesh at the bottom.

4. In all three countries, the growth rate of land productivity was not high enough to cancel the negative growth of land availability per capita. But the output per capita growth in Pakistan continues to be higher than in India and Bangladesh.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an excerpt from an interesting Indiatimes report about delegates getting tired of the talk of India at Davos 2011:

“Amongst the delegates,” wrote stockbroker Paul Fletcher in a blog from Davos, “there is a feeling that if we hear another session on demographics or China versus India we may protest.”

Such a forthright disregard for the so-called ‘India story’ may understandably offend nationalist sentiments and bring on the ‘west versus rest’ polarization that keeps many public intellectuals in business. But the harsh truth is that India has been sold, resold and re-re-sold in so many samosa and Sula evenings that it has lost novelty. The Davos lot is aware and excited by India’s potential — who wouldn’t be at the thought of a 91 million-strong middle class by 2030?

They are also aware but a little less moved by the realization that calculating opportunity costs aren’t among the inherited attributes of the timeless “ancient civilization, new nation” (India’s self-description in the billboards of Davos).

The irritation at the mismatch between words and deeds has begun to show: the latest report by the Reserve Bank of India shows that foreign direct investment in India declined by 36% between April and September 2010 compared to the same period in 2009. This decline coincides with FDI growth of 17% in non-Arab Asia. Whispers from North Block suggest that thanks to a rampaging minister of environment, the story for the next six months may be equally discouraging.

As talk of a “governance deficit” becomes all-pervasive, ‘India inclusive’ —another promotional line in Davos—is increasingly being seen as the eyewash for ‘India elusive’.

It is not as if those quizzed by the Indian media on the 2G licences and uncompetitive interest rates are unaware of the emerging wrinkles on the face of Bharat Mata. It is an open secret that the mood in Indian business circles is distinctly downbeat. They know that the ‘India story’ is meandering.
Riaz Haq said…
Chandran Nair argues in his book "Consumptionomics" that the Asians need to rethink the whole idea of western-style consumer-driven capitalism to ensure a better, more sustainable future for their massive population.

Here are some excepts from Financial Times review of the book "Consumptionomics: Asia’s Role in Reshaping Capitalism and Saving the Planet":

, -- Life might not be as much fun in his world as it is for the lucky ones who become wealthy under liberal capitalism. “Golf and car racing might be out but badminton and social dancing are more popular,” he suggests in his vision of leisure time in a Nairian society. But the benefits of development would be spread more widely, damage to the earth’s resources would be controlled and people would probably spend less time working.

Nair’s starting point is that the world simply cannot survive the consequences of the growth of highly populous Asian economies to levels of development reached by industrialised countries if that is to be achieved on the same resource-guzzling terms as western development.
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Throughout the book, Nair evinces an angry disdain for western-style capitalism, which he regards as setting the world on a path to destruction by its devotion to the ideology of markets and its voracious appetite for finite resources. He’s none too complimentary either about its media cheerleaders, including this newspaper.

“The biggest lie of all is that consumption-driven capitalism can deliver wealth to all,” he writes. “In Asia it can only deliver short-term wealth to a minority; in the long term, it can only deliver misery to all. This is the intellectual dishonesty at the heart of the model the west has peddled to Asia.”

Nair points to the familiar issue of energy use, saying that if Asia’s population was to use as much energy per person as Europeans do today (relatively modest compared to Americans), then it would use eight to nine times as much energy as the US currently consumes. Perhaps more startling is an estimate he uses for poultry consumption. Americans will eat 9bn birds this year, apparently. If by 2050 Asians ate the same amount per person, they would swallow more than 120bn. That’s a lot of battery chickens.

Nor is Nair impressed by arguments that technology will ultimately solve issues such as energy shortages and climate change, allowing economic growth and consumption to go on expanding. He dismisses the notion that Asia should concentrate on growth and then, when it is rich, clean up afterwards. What he demands is a radical change in the prevailing global economic model and its governance.
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But the shape of a Nairian Asia does emerge. It would be made up of strong nation-state governments willing to take unilateral action on issues such as controlling natural resource exploitation and domestic agriculture and industry. Governments would get bigger and spend more with an emphasis on sustainable infrastructure such as public transport. Carbon, natural resources and financial transactions would be taxed – possibly allowing for a reduction or elimination of payroll taxes. Agriculture would be deindustrialised, with a drive to return to labour-intensive farming to ensure sufficient output and stop mass migration to cities.

What would life be like for the individual? They would be expected to forgo owning a car, would pay high prices for meat and restaurant portions would be restricted. But income differentials would be minimised and access to the benefits of technology widely shared.

He doesn’t say it but Nair is describing a kind of Asian Norway, with the benefits of natural resources controlled and socialised to a high degree, rural communities subsidised to keep people on the land, fisheries protected, a high commitment to energy efficiency and high taxation to support high levels of social welfare.
Riaz Haq said…
Humanity would need five Earths to produce the resources needed if everyone lived as profligately as Americans, according to a report, says Times of India:

As it is, humanity each year uses resources equivalent to nearly one-and-a-half Earths to meet its needs, said the report by Global Footprint Network, an international think tank.

"We are demanding nature's services — using resources and creating CO² emissions — at a rate 44% faster than what nature can regenerate and reabsorb," the document said. "That means it takes the Earth just under 18 months to produce the ecological services humanity needs in one year," it said.

And if humankind continues to use natural resources and produce waste at the current rate, "we will require the resources of two planets to meet our demands by the early 2030s," a gluttonous level of ecological spending that may cause major ecosystem collapse.

Global Footprint Network calculated the ecological footprint — the amount of land and sea needed to produce the resources a population consumes and absorb its CO² emissions — of more than 100 countries and of the entire globe.
Back in 1961, the entire planet used just over slightly more than half of Earth's biocapacity. Today, 80% of countries use more biocapacity than is available within their borders.

The average American has an ecological footprint of 23 acres, or the equivalent of 17 US football fields. At the other end of the scale are impoverished countries like Malawi, Nepal or Bangladesh, where the footprints are 1.25 acres — often not enough to provide for basic food and shelter.
Riaz Haq said…
Rising crop prices in the US are helping economic recovery in the farm belt and lifting the value of farmland in the Midwest, according to the Wall Street Journal:

Farmland values in much of the Midwest are climbing at their fastest rates since the 2008 boom, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City said Tuesday.

Fueled by rising crop prices, the value of irrigated and nonirrigated cropland across the region known as the 10th District jumped 14.8% and 12.9%, respectively, in the fourth quarter, compared with a year earlier.

The bank's quarterly survey of the region, which covers western Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Colorado and northern New Mexico, found that farmland prices rose for the fifth consecutive quarter since a drop in the third quarter of 2009, when the livestock sector was contracting amid the recession.

The Federal Reserve's regional banks closely track farm real-estate prices because they are a key indicator of the health of U.S. farming, which uses about half of the nation's land. Land is farming's largest asset and source of collateral, which means any increase in value lifts farmers' borrowing power.

The Federal Reserve Banks in Chicago and Minneapolis have yet to issue their quarterly surveys, but their reports are also expected to show that the farm belt is continuing to rebound from the recession more quickly than the general economy, which has been hobbled by high unemployment rates and weak home values.

Farmland prices in the 10th District are generating their biggest gains since the third quarter of 2008, when prices of irrigated farmland jumped 23.4% and prices of nonirrigated farmland rose 21.2%.

Still, it's not clear how long farmland prices can continue to climb so sharply. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has already said it's watching for whether an asset bubble is building. One red flag in Tuesday's report is that cash rental rates for cropland across the 10th District rose only about 6% in the fourth quarter, far too little to justify such a big increase in land prices.

As a result, some farm bankers across the region are beginning to tighten their standards on real estate loans.

"Bankers in the survey were starting to raise questions about the sustainability of farmland values" and "paying closer attention to their loan-to-value ratios," said Brian Briggeman, an economist at the Omaha branch of the Kansas City Fed.

Farmland prices are heavily influenced by crop prices, which were climbing until the financial crisis and recession popped the commodity-price bubble in late 2008. Led by wheat, U.S. crop prices resumed their upward climb in June 2010 amid harvest problems in places such as Russia, and then the U.S. corn belt, as demand was recovering in the world's emerging economies.

The prices of corn and wheat grown in the Midwest are about double what they were a year ago, while cotton prices are up 155%. Soybean prices have climbed 50%. Those high commodity prices are giving farmers more money to spend on land, as well as attracting the interest of outside investors looking for an inflation hedge at a time when the cost of borrowing money for buying real estate is low.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said Monday that it expects net farm income, a widely followed barometer of the U.S. agriculture sector's profitability, to climb 19.8% this year to $94.7 billion, which would be the second-highest inflation-adjusted figure for net farm income in 35 years.
Riaz Haq said…
News about 2010-2011 budgets in South Asia:

The BBC is reporting that "the budget deficit has reduced to 5.1% of GDP this fiscal year, down from more than 6%. The plan is to cut this to 4.6% next year".

Pakistan's budget deficit for first six months of 2010-2011 stood at 2.9%, up from 2.7% last year, according to CNBC and Reuters.

KARACHI, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Pakistan's budget deficit for the first six months of the 2010/11 fiscal year (July-June) was 2.9 percent of gross domestic product, the Finance Ministry said on its Web site (www.finance.gov.pk) on Monday. This compared with a deficit of 2.7 percent in the same period last year. In the October-December quarter, the deficit eased to 1.3 percent from 1.6 percent in the preceding quarter. Analysts said the lower second-quarter deficit was largely due to payments by the United States for logistical support provided by Pakistan in the war against Islamist militants. In November 2010, Pakistan agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it would keep the country's budget deficit at 4.7 percent for the 2010/11 fiscal year. However, analysts agree Pakistan will likely overshoot this figure. Some forecast the deficit to be around 8 percent, higher than the central bank's prediction of between 6.0 and 6.5 percent, if fiscal reforms are not implemented. The original target of 4 percent was revised following the devastating summer floods, which caused around $10 billion in damages.
Riaz Haq said…
Here are some excerpts from a BBC report on India Census 2011:

India's population has grown by 181 million people over the past decade to 1.21bn, according to the 2011 census.

More people now live in India than in the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan and Bangladesh combined.

India is on course to overtake China as the world's most populous nation by 2030, but its growth rate is falling, figures show. China has 1.3bn people.

The census also reveals a continuing preference for boys - India's sex ratio is at its worst since independence.

Female foeticide remains common in India, although sex-selective abortion based on ultrasound scans is illegal. Sons are still seen by many as wage-earners for the future.

Statistics show fewer girls than boys are being born or surviving. The gender imbalance has widened every decade since independence in 1947.

According to the 2011 census, 914 girls were born for every 1,000 boys under the age of six, compared with 927 for every 1,000 boys in the 2001 census.

"This is a matter of grave concern," Census Commissioner C Chandramauli told a press conference in the capital, Delhi.

Government officials said they would review all their policies towards this issue, which they admitted were failing.

Indians now make up 17% of the world's population. Uttar Pradesh remains its most populous state, with 199 million people.

The statistics show India's massive population growing at a significant rate - 181 million is roughly equivalent to the entire population of Brazil.

But the rate of that growth is slower than at any time since 1947. The 2011 census charts a population increase of 17.6%, compared with one of 21.5% over the previous decade.

The BBC's Mark Dummett in Delhi says the slowing growth rate suggests that efforts to promote birth control and female education are working.

In the field of education there was good news, with the census showing the literacy rate going up to 74% from about 65% in the last count.

India launched the 2011 census last year. The exercise costs in the region of 22bn rupees ($490m; £300m).

Some 2.7 million officials visited households in about 7,000 towns and 600,000 villages, classifying the population according to gender, religion, education and occupation.

The exercise, conducted every 10 years, faces big challenges, not least India's vast area and diversity of cultures.

Census officials also have to contend with high levels of illiteracy and millions of homeless people - as well as insurgencies by Maoists and other rebels which have left large parts of the country unsafe.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's Soutik Biswas of the BBC on India Census 2011:

The good news is that at 17.64%, the rate of growth between 2001-2011 represents the sharpest decline over a decade since Independence. The growth rate was at its lowest between 1941-1951 when it was 13.3%: that was a time of famine, religious killings, and the transfer of populations in the run-up to partition. The growth rate was more than 24% between 1961 and 1981. So a 17.64% growth rate points to a slowing down that will cheer those who are concerned about how India will bear the burden of its massive population.

The bad news for those with such concerns is that India still has more than a billion people, and this number is rising. Indian politicians and policy planners speak eloquently about how this population will fetch demographic dividends, and ensure India's growth story.

But such optimism can be unfounded if the state is found wanting in the way that it is. It is very easy, warn social scientists, for this demographic dividend to turn into a deficit with millions of uneducated, unskilled and unemployed young people on the streets, angry and a threat to peace and social stability. "There is nothing to brag about our population growing and crossing China. Do we know how we are going to skill all these people?" That is the question of India's top demographer, Ashish Bose.

The government would like to say that the dip in population growth has to do with pushing a successful contraception programme in the country. But social scientists say that with rising urbanisation, it is no surprise that population growth is on the decline. Increasing urbanisation leads to nuclear families in small homes paying high rents in increasingly expensive cities. Having more children does not help matters.

The biggest shock in this census is the decline in the child gender ratio at 914 girls (up to six years) for every 1000 boys. This is the lowest since Independence and it looks like a precipitous drop from a high of 976 girls in the 1961 census.

Social scientists and demographers believe that the decline in the number of girls all over the country - in 27 states and union territories - points to deeply entrenched social attitudes towards women, despite economic liberalisation and increasing work opportunities.

They link sex determination tests and female foeticide - banned in India, but still quite widespread due to lax enforcement - to the rising costs of dowry, a practice which even the burgeoning middle classes have been unable to get rid of. "Marriages have become costlier, dowries have been pricier, so there is a lot of social resistance to having girl children in the family," says Mr Bose.
Riaz Haq said…
Here are a few excerpts from Wall Street Journal story titled "India's Boom Bypasses Rural Poor":


The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA), as the $9 billion program is known, is riddled with corruption, according to senior government officials. Less than half of the projects begun since 2006—including new roads and irrigation systems—have been completed. Workers say they're frequently not paid in full or forced to pay bribes to get jobs, and aren't learning any new skills that could improve their long-term prospects and break the cycle of poverty.

In Nakrasar, a collection of villages in the dusty western state of Rajasthan, 19 unfinished projects for catching rain and raising the water table are all there is to show for a year's worth of work and $77,000 in program funds. No major roads have been built, no new homes, schools or hospitals or any infrastructure to speak of.

At one site on a recent afternoon, around 200 workers sat idly around a bone-dry pit. "What's the big benefit?" said Gopal Ram Jat, a 40-year-old farmer in a white cotton head scarf. He says he has earned enough money through the program—about $200 in a year—to buy some extra food for his family, but not much else. "No public assets were made of any significance."

Scenes like this stand in stark contrast to India's image of a global capitalist powerhouse with surging growth and a liberalized economy. When it comes to combating rural poverty, the country looks more like a throwback to the India of old: a socialist-inspired state founded on Gandhian ideals of noble peasantry, self-sufficiency and a distaste for free enterprise.

Workers in the rural employment program aren't allowed to use machines, for example, and have to dig instead with pick axes and shovels. The idea is to create as many jobs as possible for unskilled workers. But in practice, say critics, it means no one learns new skills, only basic projects get completed and the poor stay poor—dependent on government checks.
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But shortly after the program started in February 2006, workers complained that local leaders were docking pay and asking for money in return for job cards. The central government responded in 2008 by sending money directly to workers' bank accounts. But according to workers and auditors, the money takes so long to reach those accounts—up to 45 days—that workers are often forced to accept lesser cash payments from local leaders on the condition that they repay the money at the full amount.

Audits of the program in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh found that about $125 million, or about 5% of the $2.5 billion spent since 2006, has been misappropriated. Some 38,000 local officials were implicated, and almost 10,000 staff lost their jobs.

In one study of eastern Orissa state, only 60% of households said a member had done any of the work reported on their behalf. Earlier this month, the central government gave the green-light for the Central Bureau of Investigation, India's top federal criminal investigation body, to launch a probe into alleged misuse of program funds in Orissa.

In other states, audits are nonexistent or have faced a backlash. Non-governmental groups that have tried to carry out audits in Rajasthan have complained that village leaders often refuse to hand over documents about the employment program. At times, auditors say, they have faced harassment and physical intimidation.

In Nakrasar's one-room village council office, people continue to sign up for the program—many of them women whose husbands have gone to work in urban areas. Shilochandra Devi, a 37-year-old with her program work book in hand, said she could buy more spices because of the program. "And anyway, we're not doing anything else. So why not?"
abhishek sharma said…
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Riaz Haq said…
Here's an excerpt from Britain's DFID report on open defecation around the world:

58% of the open defecation in the world takes place in India. It is an absolutely astonishing phenomenon. Even just rural India is more than double the open defecation in the whole of
sub-Saharan Africa. The WSP, the Water and Sanitation Programme at the Bank, have recently done an assessment of the costs of this to India, and every
year they estimate $54 billion, which is $48 per head, which is far higher than any other countries in the
region.

http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/reliefweb_pdf/node-420188.pdf

Sense of public hygiene is worst in India among its neighbours – a recent study revealed that India hosts 58% people of the world of open defecation compare to 5% for china, Indonesia and 4.8% for Pakistan. Economic growth is not reflecting improvement in public hygiene.

http://esa.un.org/iys/docs/san_lib_docs/Scaling%20Up%20Rural%20Saniltation.pdf

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2494536.ece

http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/monitoring/jmpfinal.pdf
Riaz Haq said…
Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan to champion sanitation campaign in India, reports The Guardian:

Sanitation and hygiene are sensitive and unpopular subjects, but funding them is essential to fighting disease, ensuring basic rights and meeting millennium development goals.

It is hardly the most glamorous role for Shah Rukh Khan, yet "the king of Bollywood" has agreed to lend his name to the cause of sanitation and hygiene, the laggards in the millennium development goals.

Basic sanitation, covering subjects such as toilets, latrines, handwashing and waste, is not an MDG in its own right, instead falling under MDG7 on ensuring environmental sustainability. But sanitation and hygiene have been the poor cousins in the global Wash (water, sanitation and hygiene) work and programmes, outfunded by as much as 13 to one, even though it could be argued that most water-related diseases are really sanitation-related diseases.

As the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said in June, sanitation is a sensitive and unpopular subject, so it is unsurprising it fails to garner much public or official attention – although the UN declared access to water and sanitation a fundamental right in 2010 and there is a UN rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.
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The problem is stark. As many as 1.2 billion people practice what the UN politely describes as "open defecation". They go to the toilet behind bushes, in fields, in plastic bags or along railway tracks. The practice poses particular problems for women and girls, who can be subject to physical and verbal abuse or humiliation. Sexual harassment and rape are also a risk for women who wait until dark to relieve themselves.

There is a link between sanitation and girls' education as well. Separate toilets at school mean more girls are likely to attend in the first place, and more are likely to stay on after puberty to complete their education. The UN's Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), based in Geneva, suggests that some money from education budgets should go towards providing toilets for students and teachers, with separate facilities for girls, to maximise the impact of the increase in education spending.

Better sanitation would also save lives, as 1.6 million children die every year from diarrhoea, a disease that could be prevented with clean water and basic sanitation. The UN says improving the disposal of human waste can reduce illness due to diarrhoea by 34%. When combined with hand-washing, this impact can be doubled.

As Timeyin Uwejamomere wrote on the Poverty Matters blog this week, a lack of basic toilets and waste management is a severe public health hazard, especially in a dense urban environment where diseases like cholera can spread like wildfire. He noted that in sub-Saharan Africa more children die from diarrhoeal diseases caused by a lack of sanitation and safe water than they do from measles, HIV and Aids, and malaria combined.
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In a sign that sanitation is receiving greater attention, the WSSCC is holding its first-ever global forum on sanitation and hygiene, starting on Sunday in Mumbai, bringing together activists, business leaders, health professionals and governmental officials. This follows a drive launched by the UN in June to accelerate progress towards the goal of halving, by 2015, the proportion of the population without access to basic sanitation.

Indicative of the increasing focus on water, sanitation and hygiene, the UK's Department for International Development is increasing bilateral aid on the problem. Based on Guardian analysis, spending will go up to £113.8m by 2014-15 from £82.9m in 2010-11, a 32% rise. So hats off to Shah Rukh Khan for his willingness to sign on to the Wash cause.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's Razib Khan of Brown Pundits on Washington Post's piece about "demographic dividend" in India:

"Amid population boom, India hopes for ‘demographic dividend’ but fears disaster. The article is OK, but I feel as usual it doesn’t do a good enough job highlighting the huge variation in fertility across India the nation-state. Tamil Nadu has the fertility of Northern Europe while Uttar Pradesh is like West Africa. Unfortunately the “demographic dividend” is going be driven by the most backward and unproductive regions of the nation on a per unit basis…."

http://www.brownpundits.com/2011/10/15/indias-demographic-dividend-and-despair/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/amid-population-boom-india-hopes-for-demographic-dividend-but-fears-disaster/2011/10/12/gIQA9I4nmL_story.html
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Miami Herald story on world's 7 billionth child this month:

The United Nations says the world's seven billionth baby will be born on Oct. 31.

No-one knows what circumstances the baby will be born into, but India's Uttar Pradesh -- a sugarcane-producing state with a population that combines that of Britain, France and Germany, in a country expected to overtake China as the world's most populous by 2030 -- provides a snapshot of the challenges it could face.

Pinky Pawar, 25, is due to give birth in Uttar Pradesh at the end of the month and is hoping her firstborn will not join the estimated 3 billion people living on less than $2 a day, with little hope of an education or a job.

"I want my child to be successful in life, so I must do my best to make this possible," she said, her hands over her swollen belly as she sat outside her mud and brick home in Sunhaida village.

In Sunhaida, poverty, illiteracy and social prejudice mark a life dominated by the struggle for survival that mirrors millions of others across the world.

RESOURCE CRUNCH

With the number of people on earth more than doubling over the last half-century, resources are under more strain than ever before.

First among the short-term worries is how to provide basic necessities for the additional 2-3 billion people expected to be added in the next 50 years.

Water usage is set to increase by 50 percent between 2007 and 2025 in developing nations and 18 percent in developed ones, with much of the increased use in the poorest countries as rising rural populations move to towns and cities.

"The problem is that 97.5 percent of it (water) is salty and ... of the 2.5 percent that's fresh, two-thirds of that is frozen," says Rob Renner, executive director of the Colorado-based Water Research Foundation.

"So there's not a lot of fresh water to deal with in the world."

Nutritious food is in short supply in many parts of the globe. The World Bank says 925 million people are hungry today, partly due to rising food prices since 1995, a succession of economic crises and the lack of access to modern farming techniques and products for poor farmers.

To feed the two billion more mouths predicted by 2050, food production will have to increase by 70 percent, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation says.
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The world is also seeing a demographic anomaly: a declining population in some richer countries has led to an imbalance between the working population and retirees who need expensive social safety nets.

The global fertility rate -- the number of children born per couple -- is around 2.5, but in richer countries this number has already nosedived.

And while exact predictions vary, most suggest the global population will peak at around 9 billion around 2070 and then start to fall, perhaps very fast.

"We thought that overpopulation was going to force humanity to expand outward to the stars," says Jack Goldstone, professor of social science and a leading demographics expert at Washington's George Mason University.

"That doesn't look like the problem at all. And the policy framework isn't set up at all to handle these longer-term issues."


http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/25/population-baby-idUSL5E7LO2I120111025
Riaz Haq said…
Here are a few excerpts of a UN report on population released today:

World population projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 with most
growth in developing regions, especially Africa – says UN
India expected to become world’s largest country, passing China around 2028,
while Nigeria could surpass the United States by 2050
New York, 13 June—The current world population of 7.2 billion is projected to
increase by almost one billion people within the next twelve years, reaching 8.1
billion in 2025 and 9.6 billion in 2050, according to a new United Nations report,
World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision, launched today.
Most of the population growth will occur in developing regions, which are projected
to increase from 5.9 billion in 2013 to 8.2 billion in 2050...
--------
At the country level, much of the overall increase between now and 2050 is projected
to take place in high-fertility countries, mainly in Africa, as well as countries with
large populations such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United
States.
-----
For example,
the population of India is expected to surpass that of China around 2028, when both
countries will have populations of around 1.45 billion. Thereafter, India’s population
will continue to grow for several decades to around 1.6 billion and then decline
slowly to 1.5 billion in 2100. The population of China, on the other hand, is expected
to start decreasing after 2030, possibly reaching 1.1 billion in 2100.
Nigeria’s population is expected to surpass that of the United States before the middle
of the century. By the end of the century, Nigeria could start to rival China as the
second most populous country in the world. By 2100 there could be several other
countries with populations over 200 million, namely Indonesia, the United Republic
of Tanzania, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda and
Niger.
---
...Europe’s population projected to decline by
14 per cent. Fertility in almost all European countries is now below the level required
for full replacement of the population in the long run (around 2.1 children per woman
on average). Fertility for Europe, as a whole, is projected to increase from 1.5 children
per woman in 2005-2010 to 1.8 in 2045-2050, and to 1.9 by 2095-2100. Despite this
increase, childbearing in low-fertility countries is expected to remain below the
replacement level, leading to a likely contraction of total population size.
Longer lives around the world
Life expectancy is projected to increase in developed and developing countries in
future years, according to the report. ----
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At the global level, it is projected to reach 76 years in 2045-2050 and 82 years in
2095-2100. By the end of the century, people in developed countries could live on
average around 89 years, compared to about 81 years in developing regions.
--------
In terms of annual averages, the major net receivers of international migrants during 2010-2050 are
projected to be the United States of America (1,000,000 annually), Canada (205,000), the United
Kingdom (172,500), Australia (150,000), Italy (131,250), the Russian Federation (127,500), France
(106,250) and Spain (102,500). The major countries of net emigration are projected to be
Bangladesh (-331,000 annually), China (-300,000), India (-284,000), Mexico (-210,000), Pakistan
(-170,000), Indonesia (-140,000) and the Philippines (-92,500). Economic and demographic
asymmetries across countries that may persist are likely to remain powerful generators of
international migration within the medium-term future.
...


http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Documentation/pdf/WPP2012_Press_Release.pdf

http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Documentation/pdf/WPP2012_%20KEY%20FINDINGS.pdf

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