NEW DELHI: A few decades ago, the prospect of India overtaking China as the world’s most populous nation would have horrified most people in our country haunted by the Malthusian nightmare. Not now! A Malthusian catastrophe is when population growth outpaces agricultural production, causing famine or war, resulting in poverty and depopulation.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi put it: “The world has admitted that India has two limitless powers— demography and democracy. The youth of India carry democratic values along with demographic dividend.”
Demographic dividend, as defined by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), is “the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, mainly when the share of the working-age population (15 to 64) is larger than the nonworking-age share of the population (14 and younger, and 65 and older)”
How the times change
From Malthusian apocalypse to demographic dividend, how the times change! Our population has ceased to be an issue primarily because its growth has been checked; and, fortunately, no coercive methods were used to do that.
India’s birth rate has slowed down in recent years and the country has a larger working-age population in absolute numbers (1.1 billion) and proportion (75 per cent of the population) than any other major economy.
This has been the result of economic growth and development; millions of Indians have managed to escape the vicious circle of extreme poverty and fast-growing population. During the last nine years in power the Modi Government’s various initiatives to harness the country’s democratic dividend have made India one of the fastestgrowing economies of the world.
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