It is interesting to note that environmentalists do not generally mention population explosion as one of the primary causes for the ongoing devastating climate change. This is because of a political correctness that seeks to keep clear of activists of other kinds, who might take umbrage as most population growth is seen among poorer sections of society. Curbing this growth may be seen as anti-poor. Another section of people that favour unbridled increase in numbers are conservative religious groups who believe the Almighty will care for those who are born, and contraception, as well as abortion, is a sin. In some countries, procreation is also being encouraged for political and religious reasons to bring about demographic change.
In recent years, it has been the belief of many that the Malthusian Theory of Population Growth has been disproved by the scientific and technological progress of mankind. Actually, as is evident now with the Pandemic and climate change phenomena like the wildfires in Brazil and California, nature has more cruel ways to correct the balance than just famines. For those who wish to survive in the short and long term, it has become necessary to adopt strategies that would prevent cataclysmic outcomes.
In India, the consensus after Sanjay Gandhi’s disastrous attempts at enforcing population control has been that ‘development’ and improvement in quality of life would discourage people from having too many children. Unfortunately, not only has the already large population drastically slowed down development, high infant mortality rates and the need for support in old age have been primary reasons for continuance of large families. The sad truth is that this ‘liberal’ approach of the timid Indian establishment compares unfavourably with the Chinese enforcement of the one child norm. Whatever the social consequences, the latter policy is also responsible for China’s economic growth.
Voices have been raised recently for a strict population control policy but it is possibly too late for India. The consequences are being experienced already with the increased emergence of populist and irresponsible politics based on the frustrations of large sections born without hope for a better life. Even for a brief enjoyment of the resources beyond their reach, they are willing to tear down what exists. At a time when India needs greater discipline and clarity of vision to implement difficult policies that are the last hope for anything like a civilised society to survive, it is anarchy that is being encouraged. India is not far from the condition of the many nations whose refugees are swarming across international borders seeking succour from the developed world. The truth is that the resources are finite; their use even with enhanced productivity will not be enough if the numbers just keep rising. Will Indians be able to recognise, even now, the threat they face?