Demographic imbalance

fetus inside the womb

There are indications that India’s overall population trends are undergoing a welcome change. According to the Sample Registration System (SRS) numbers for 2017, published by the Registrar General of India, the total fertility rate (TFR) of India has fallen from 2.3 from 2013-16 to 2.2 in 2017. The total fertility rate is the number of children a women is likely to have, and a decimal point fall is a major shift. India is close to the replacement level of 2.1, which has already been achieved in many states. The TFR is in the 1.5-1.7 range in all the southern states and below the national average in Maharashtra, Bengal, Punjab and a few other states. The worst performers are Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which have a TFR in the 3.0-3.2 range. These are the most socially and economically backward states in the country. As they already have large populations, the increase in numbers there will have a big impact on the national population size. So, while the SRS numbers are good news, they are also a reminder of the need to concentrate on family welfare programmes in the underperforming states and to promote social and economic development there. 

A matter of serious concern is that the sex ratio at birth (SRB), which is the number of female babies born per 1,000 male babies, has fallen from 898 in 2014-15 to 896 in 2016-17. The sex ratio has steadily fallen in the country, and the disappearance of two girls per thousand means millions of girls unborn. The ratio saw a decline from 974 to 948 even in Kerala, which has had a healthy sex ratio. The failure to stop the deterioration of the sex ratio and establish a fair and normal gender balance will seriously impact the society in many ways in the coming years. The figures underline the need to implement schemes like Beti Bachao, Beti Bachao and programmes for the health and welfare of girls and women more effectively. They also call for campaigns, policy changes and shifts in personal and social attitudes. 

The changes in demography will have many consequences and pose a number of challenges. The gradual increase in the number of elderly people will make more welfare schemes for them necessary. The country needs to start preparations for this. The demographic imbalance between states and regions may induce population shifts and migrations which will have social and political consequences, some of which are already being felt. Concern is being expressed over the possible effects on the sharing of central revenues or delimitation of parliamentary constituencies with population as the yardstick. These are all weighty issues that need to be tackled.  


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