Next to the People's Republic of china, India is the most populous country in the whole world. Around 1977, the population was 668 million, and in the 1981 census it crossed the 680 million levels. In 1991, it was around 845 millions. Asia accounts for 60% of the total world's population, while India alone contributes about 16%. The total population of India as at 0:00 hours on 1st March 2001 stood at 1,027,015,247 persons. With this, India became only the second country in the world after China to cross the one billion mark. The population of the country rose by 21.34% between 1991-2001. The sex ratio (i.e., number of females per thousand males) of population was 933, rising from 927 in 1991. Total literacy rate was recorded as 65.38% in 2001. In 1952, India was the first country in the world to launch a national programme, emphasizing family planning to the extent necessary for reducing birth rates "to stabilize the population at a level consistent with the requirements of national economy". The population of India at that time had been estimated to be around 342 million. As per the estimates of Sample Registration System of the office of the Registrar General of India, the population of India is increasing at a rate of 15.5 million a year. Every year the total population of Australia, is added to the population of India.
It has been estimated by the Technical Working Group on Population Projections appointed by Planning Commission that by 2016, India's population would go upto 1263 million, i.e., by another 31%. While the population of states of Kerala, Orissa and Tamil Nadu will increase by 15% to 19% during 1998-2016, in the states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh it would increase by over 40%, the highest anticipated increase being in Uttar Pradesh with 55%. UP's population will cross a mind-boggling figure of 242.8 million by 2016. The immediate objective of the National Population Policy, 2000 is to address the unmet needs for contraception, health care infrastructure, and health personnel, and to provide integrated service delivery for basic reproductive and child health care. The medium term objective is to bring TFR to replacement levels by 2010, through vigorous implementation of inter-sectional operational strategies. The long-term objective is to achieve a stable population by 2045, at a level consistent with the requirements of sustainable economic growth, social development, and environmental protection.
In pursuance of these objectives, the following National Sotio-Demographic goal has to be achieved in each case by 2010:
Address the unmet needs for basic reproductive and child health services, supplies and infrastructure; to make school education upto age of 14 free and compulsory, and reduce drop-outs at primary and secondary school levels to below 20 per cent for both boys and girls; to reduce infant mortality rate to below 30 per 1000 live births; to reduce Maternal mortality ratio to below 100 per 100,000 live births, to achieve universal immunization of children against all vaccine preventable diseases; to promote delayed marriage for girls, not earlier than the age of 18 and preferably after 20 years of age; to integrate Indian Systems of Medicine (ISM) in the provision of reproductive and child health services, and in reaching out to households and to promote vigorously the small family etc are a few measures that are decided upon to meet the challenges of population explosion.
The major causes of this population explosion are the widening gap between the birth and the death rate due to increased medical facilities. Another social cause in India that contributes to the growth of population in India is the low age of marriage. Early marriages should be discouraged at any cost which can be done only through education and spreading social awareness through various means as the television and the cinema to the illiterate masses. This brings us to another related problem that of high illiteracy rate. Due to illiteracy, measures like family planning get defeated. Education makes people broad-minded, liberal, and open to new ideas, logical and rational. It helps to keep away orthodoxy and superstitious thinking. It is evident from the fact that Kerala which has an overall literacy rate of 90.59% and female literacy rate of 86.93% (1991), has the lowest birth rate while Rajasthan with a low female literacy rate of about 20.84% (1991), has the third highest birth rate in the country, next only to Uttar Pradesh. Other causes of population explosion are joint family system, lack of responsibility of the young couples in the joint family to bring up their children, lack of recreational facilities and lack of information.
The uncontrollable and unplanned growth of population affects the living standard of the people. Our spectacular progress made in agriculture and industry has been minimized by the population explosion. Till date it is estimated that around 25 million people are homeless, 171 million people have no dean drinking water, 290 million adults are illiterate, and 53% of children below 5 years are underweight. The mushrooming cities have led to the breakdown of transportation facilities, electricity, housing facilities and employment opportunities. These have, of course, led to increase in the crime rate, violence and poverty. The nation is on the road to prepare an army of unemployed, hungry, violent and desperate peop1e who will threaten every social, economic and political foundation of the country. All this is, in fact, increases with the addition of approximately 17 million people each year. It has been estimated that with the addition of every 10 crore people in India, we will need around 1.5 lakhs primary and middle schools, 10,000 higher secondary schools, 50 lakhs primary and middle school teachers, 1.5 lakhs higher secondary school teachers, 5,000 hospitals, 2,000 health centres, 50,000 doctors, 25,000 nurses, 20 million tonnes of food grains, 25,000 metres cloth and 2,500 million houses. In fact, presently 49.1% of people do not have electricity, 69.7% have no toilets, 51.5% have no pukka houses and another 19% have no safe drinking water.
In 1993, the Swaminathan Committee was appointed for proposing a National Policy on Population, which submitted its report in May 1994. In fact, India was the first country to start a government supported family planning programme in the 1950s at a time when the world was not even aware of the impending problem. In 1977, the Family Planning Programme was renamed as Family Welfare Programme due the mishandling of the policy during the notorious emergency period of 1975, by the top politicians and government officials. A new approach is given out with the introduction of target-free programme at the grass root level in consultation with the health centres and sub centres, panchayat members etc. Even the NGOs are being involved to spread awareness and education among the masses. The progress in controlling and containing population has been very slow when compared with the progress of China whose fertility rate has been reduced to 2.5 from 5.82.
The road is long and sturdy for India but it is not an impossible destination to arrive at. The government has to adopt strict measures like not recruiting the persons having more than two children, spread education and awareness among women etc. People should be made aware of the repercussions of population explosion and if that does not help, fear of law can also be used as a last resort in order to find ways to control and contain the population of the country.