Population & Associated Issues

Previous Year Questions

  1. Why do some of the most prosperous regions of India have an adverse sex ratio for women? Give your arguments. (2014)
  2. Critically examine whether growing population is the cause of poverty OR poverty is the mains cause of population increase in India. (2015)
  3. How do you explain the statistics that show that the sex ratio in Tribes in India is more favourable to women than the sex ratio among Scheduled Castes? (2015)
  4. “Empowering women is the key to control population growth”. Discuss. (2019)

One of the main influencers of politics, economics and cultural development during the course of history have been the demographic dynamics. This major decisive element of a country’s attributes has played a crucial role as an asset for the progress and development when it came to internal and external decision making.

In India, U.P., Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh along with Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat, together account for about 76 per cent of the total population of the country. On the other hand, share of population is very small in the states like Jammu & Kashmir (1.04%), Arunachal Pradesh (0.11%) and Uttarakhand (0.84%) inspite of theses states having fairly large geographical area. Such an uneven spatial distribution of population in India suggests a close relationship between population and physical, socioeconomic and historical factors.

As far as the physical factors are concerned, it is clear that climate along with terrain and availability of water largely determines the pattern of the population distribution. Consequently, we observe that the North Indian Plains, deltas and Coastal Plains have higher proportion of population than the interior districts of southern and central Indian States, Himalayas, some of the north eastern and the western states. However, development of irrigation (Rajasthan), availability of mineral and energy resources (Jharkhand) and development of transport network (Peninsular States) have resulted in moderate to high concentration of population in areas which were previously very thinly populated.

Among the socio-economic and historical factors of distribution of population, important ones are evolution of settled agriculture and agricultural development; pattern of human settlement; development of transport network, industrialisation and urbanisation. It is observed that the regions falling in the river plains and coastal areas of India have remained the regions of larger population concentration. Even though the uses of natural resources like land and water in these regions have shown the sign of degradation, the concentration of population remains high because of an early history of human settlement and development of transport network.

On the other hand, the urban regions of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Jaipur have high concentration of population due to industrial development and urbanisation drawing a large number of rural-urban migrants.


Overpopulation is an undesirable condition where the number of existing human population exceeds the carrying capacity of Earth. Overpopulation is caused by number of factors. Reduced mortality rate, better medical facilities, depletion of precious resources are few of the causes which results in overpopulation. It is possible for a sparsely populated area to become densely populated if it is not able to sustain life.

Causes of Overpopulation:

1.Decline in the Death Rate: At the root of overpopulation is the difference between the overall birth rate and death rate in populations. If the number of children born each year equals the number of adults that die, then the population will stabilize. Talking about overpopulation shows that while there are many factors that can increase the death rate for short periods of time, the ones that increase the birth rate do so over a long period of time. The discovery of agriculture by our ancestors was one factor that provided them with the ability to sustain their nutrition without hunting. This created the first imbalance between the two rates.

2.Better Medical Facilities: Following this came the industrial revolution. Technological advancement was perhaps the biggest reason why the balance has been permanently disturbed. Science was able to produce better means of producing food, which allowed families to feed more mouths. Medical science made many discoveries thanks to which they were able to defeat a whole range of diseases. Illnesses that had claimed thousands of lives till now were cured because of the invention of vaccines. Combining the increase in food supply with fewer means of mortality tipped the balance and became the starting point of overpopulation.

3.More Hands to Overcome Poverty: However, when talking about overpopulation we should understand that there is a psychological component as well. For thousands of years, a very small part of the population had enough money to live in comfort. The rest faced poverty and would give birth to large families to make up for the high infant mortality rate. Families that have been through poverty, natural disasters or are simply in need of more hands to work are a major factor for overpopulation. As compared to earlier times, most of these extra children survive and consume resources that are not sufficient in nature.

4.Technological Advancement in Fertility Treatment: With latest technological advancement and more discoveries in medical science, it has become possible for couple who are unable to conceive to undergo fertility treatment methods and have their own babies. Today there are effective medicines which can increases the chance of conception and lead to rise in birth rate. Moreover, due to modern techniques pregnancies today are far safer.

5.Immigration: Many people prefer to move to developed countries like US, UK, Canada and Australia where best facilities are available in terms of medical, education, security and employment. The end result is that those people settle over there and those places become overcrowded. Difference between the number of people who are leaving the country and the number of people who enter narrows down which leads to more demand for food, clothes, energy and homes. This gives rise to shortage of resources. Though the overall population remains the same, it just affects the density of population making that place simply overcrowded.

6.Lack of Family Planning: Most developing nations have large number of people who are illiterate, live below the poverty line and have little or no knowledge about family planning. Getting their children married at an early age increase the chances of producing more kids. Those people are unable to understand the harmful effects of overpopulation and lack of quality education prompts them to avoid family planning measures.

Effects of Overpopulation:

In India, the over population has engulfed almost all achievements in industrial growth, agricultural production, supporting services like medical care, housing, transport, education, banking etc. It has put serious pressures on every sector of our economy and every section of society. Almost all our national problems can be traced back to have their roots in overgrowing population. Some of them are:

  • Decreased availability of food and clothing due to numerous purchases of the items;
  • Decreased per capita food availability despite phenomenal increase in their production;
  • Decreased per capita GMP and reduced standard of living due to ever increasing population.
  • Increased pressure on resources like land, water, natural forests, animals etc. leading to many far-reaching effects like fragmentation of land below the economic level, acute shortage of drinking and irrigation water, denudation of forest (Deforestation) to increase the area under agriculture, pollution of water, land, food materials etc. Greater utilization of resources can result to scarcity of everything.
  • Urbanization beyond a healthy developmental limit as more rural people shift to towns / cities in search of better work / earning.
  • Unemployment problems of serious dimension both in urban and rural areas leading to a reduced per capita earning, poverty, etc.
  • Hunger deaths – because of reduced per capita food availability and poor distribution of food; not all people get the same nutritious consumption;
  • Acute shortage of medical facilities including qualified doctors, medicines, dispensaries, modern health care facilities etc – due to high population
  • Shortage of education facilities including schools, colleges, qualified teachers.
  • Serious shortage of power and problems connected with its distribution.
  • Increased inflation and increased borrowings from international organizations.
  • Reduced care of young ones leading to increased child health problems as well as vulnerability of children to many diseases and of mothers.
  • Difficulties encountered in implementation of all national and state developmental programs.

Solutions to Overpopulation:

Better Education: One of the first measures is to implement policies reflecting social change. Educating the masses helps them understand the need to have one or two children at the most. Families that are facing a hard life and choose to have four or five children should be discouraged. Family planning and efficient birth control can help in women making their own reproductive choices. Open dialogue on abortion and voluntary sterilization should be seen when talking about overpopulation.

Making People Aware of Family Planning: As population of this world is growing at a rapid pace, raising awareness among people regarding family planning and letting them know about serious after effects of overpopulation can help curb population growth. One of the best way is to let them know about various safe sex techniques and contraceptives methods available to avoid any unwanted pregnancy.

Tax Benefits or Concessions: Government of various countries might have to come with various policies related to tax exemptions to curb overpopulation. One of them might be to waive of certain part of income tax or lowering rates of income tax for those married couples who have single or two children. As we humans are more inclined towards money, this may produce some positive results.

Knowledge of Sex Education: Imparting sex education to young kids at elementary level should be must. Most parents feel shy in discussing such things with their kids which result in their children going out and look out for such information on internet or discuss it with their peers. Mostly, the information is incomplete which results in sexually active teenagers unaware of contraceptives and embarrassed to seek information about same. It is therefore important for parents and teachers to shed their old inhibitions and make their kids or students aware of solid sex education.

Gender Discrimination and Gender Ratio

There is no space for any kind of discrimination in the modern society. Skewed gender ratio in favour of male child is an indicator of underdevelopment. Unfortunately, Indian society is suffering with discriminating behaviour with women right from the childhood or even when they are in the womb in the form of female feticide. When they grow up there is discrimination in providing female child proper medical facilities that results more mortality rate in females as compared to males in 0-6 years of age. The problem is more severe in the states with high per-capita income.

Reasons of this negative correlation:

1. More accessibility to the labs and medical facilities with increase in income. Ultrasound tests are being widely used for sex selection, with sex selection being more evident for the wealthiest women than for women in the other wealth quintiles.

2. Female child is considered as liability. Sex ratios of all last births and last births of sterilized women show clearly that couples typically stop having children once they have the desired number of sons.

3. The social and cultural factors also play inevitable role for the gender inequality. Traditionally, parents are not supposed to live with daughters in their old age particularly when daughters are married. Huge expenditure on marriages, dowry system, transferring business and wealth, perpetuating the family name, and performing last rituals are some other socio-cultural factors that are responsible for the preference of male child in the country like India.

4. The increasing crime against women and low social status in the society because of patriarchy system also lead to the male child preference. Under this system, parents potentially reap more of the returns to investment in son’s health and education. This is the reason that child sex ratio in India that was 927 (census 2001) declined to 919 (census 2011).

5. Migration of male members form the relatively less per-capita income to the more per-capita income may be another reason of skewed gender ratio. Most of the migration that takes place from rural has a character of men coming to cities living families behind. Perhaps this kind of movement makes the cities having low sex ratio.

Suggestions to improve gender ratio:

There should be multidimensional strategy to tackle the problem of gender ratio in India. The figure below shows five-dimensional approach to improve the adverse gender ratio.

1. Government: Government is a major contributor in tackling the problem in the country. Government initiated the policies to raise the status of the girl child in the family and to prevent female feticide and infanticide. But mere launching these schemes and policies cannot do wonders. There is dire need to popularize these schemes and incentives should be considerable. The coverage of these schemes should be increased so that maximum people can get the benefit.

2. Legal: Though number of acts have been passed for the crime against women and to end social evils against women but they are neither able to control the crimes nor fully end the social malevolence. The graph of crime against women is showing regular increasing trend. Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, The Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act, 2005, The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 etc. could not come up to the expectations. So, the reasons of their less success should be find out and loopholes should be strictly covered. Amendments in these acts can also be made if required.

3. Community: The awareness campaign for the declining gender ratio can only be successful when it will be initiated by the local communities at the village and block level. The anganwadi workers and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers can really make the difference. The awareness camps should be organized at Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and Community Health Centres (CHCs) so that maximum people can be covered under the campaign. Special attention should be given to the areas where the gender ratio is enormously less.

4. Economic: The sex ratio of children attending school is 889 girls per 1000 boys. It is important that the women should be economically sound, and education can play important role. An educated girl can share the financial burden of the family with her father and later with her husband. In this way she will no longer be considered as financial liability. Free and compulsory education should be provided to female children so that they can support themselves during exigency. Also, it will remove the attitude that ‘investing in girls is unnecessary’. The Government should ensure proper implementation of equal wages for same work in men and women in all the sectors.

5. Social and cultural: About two in five currently married women age 15-49 have experienced spousal violence in their current marriage, and among women who have ever experienced such violence, more than two in three have experienced violence in the past year. This shows pitiable condition of Indian women in the society. Women should be considered equal to the male members of the society and this is possible by empowering women in terms of their rights in all respects. Women should also be socialized from early childhood to consider themselves equal to men. They should be encouraged to assume all those responsibilities, which are normally considered to belong to the male domain. Women should be involved in the decision-making of the family issues as well as in the social issues, that will increase their position in the society and their self-confidence will boost up.

Missing women:

“Missing women” — a concept developed by Amartya Sen — refers to the observation that in parts of the developing world, notably in India and China, the ratio of women to men is suspiciously low. Sen translated those skewed sex ratios into absolute numbers by calculating the number of extra women who would have been alive (say in China or India) if these countries had the same ratio of women to men as in areas of the world in which they purportedly receive similar care. Sen estimated that more than 100 million women were “missing”, presumably from inequality and neglect leading to excess female mortality.

Around 40 Million women are estimated to be missing in India. First, Indian women face the risk of excess mortality at every stage of their lives. Second, there is huge variation across the states in the distribution of missing women. Missing women at birth is highest in two north-western states. Likewise, excess female mortality at all ages is to be lowest in several southern states. Amongst these states, there is variation as well. In few other states, excess female mortality in childhood is on par with the north-western states, but excess female mortality in adulthood is significantly higher.

Meta Preference:

While active sex selection via fetal abortions is widely prevalent, son preference can also manifest itself in a subtler form. Parents may choose to keep having children until they get the desired number of sons. This is called son “meta” preference. A son “meta” preference – even though it does not lead to sex-selective abortion – may nevertheless be detrimental to female children because it may lead to fewer resources devoted to them.

The important thing to note is that this form of sex selection alone will not skew the sex ratio – either at birth or overall. Therefore, a different measure is required to detect such a “meta” preference for a son. One indicator that potentially gets at this is the sex ratio of the last child (SRLC). A preference for sons will manifest itself in the SRLC being heavily skewed in favour of boys. This kind of fertility stopping rule will lead to skewed sex ratios but in different directions: skewed in favour of males if it is the last child, but in favour of females if it is not.

India after outlawing sex selection (via the implementation of Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act, 1994) saw a stabilization of its sex ratio at birth albeit at an elevated level. However, it is not clear whether it resulted from changes in societal preferences or due to increased state regulation of sex-detection technology. SRLC helps us better understand and decompose the underlying factors.

The Government has taken many steps to make people aware about this evil and many programs has been started as a part of campaign against female feticide and infanticide to improve the gender ratio in the country. But all the Government efforts could not bring much change. There should be multi-level efforts to curb this problem to get better results.