India celebrated November 14 as Children’s Day, and exactly five months after on April 14, 2023 would surpass China crowning itself the world’s most populated county. The world has already celebrated the arrival of the 8 billionth baby on Earth, as it signified a milestone for humanity in terms of achievement in human health with the increased expectancy of life at birth. Moreover, the global population will continue to rise, and within 15 years, another one billion will be added to become 9 billion. Only after reaching peak in the early 1960s, the world population would start decelerating to reach 10.4 billion in the 2080s. India and China, both would have over 1.4 billion population each by April 14, 2023. It is only a theoretical argument that more population means more hands to work, and both the countries would potentially garner the so-called population dividend. However, in practice, both the countries will not be in position to provide work for its growing people, which would further put a burden on the responsibility to feed their people, especially those who will have no job and means of livelihood.
Covid-19 pandemic has already indicated that providing access to heath would be another major challenge coupled with food crisis. India will have to face greater challenges on this account since the pandemic has increased the ever increasing inequality among the haves and have-nots, pushing millions of people below poverty line. It has changed the world of work in which the economic growth is creating too little new jobs to offset the unprecedented level of growth in population. Without complete coverage of the entire population under social security, the majority of the population cannot feed themselves. Even during the pandemic India needed to provide foodgrains to 800 million of people out of about 1,390 million population. India’s population growth has always been much more than the projection. In 2000, the country was projected to surpass China’s population by 2045, but by 2017 it was projected to become the world’s most populous country by 2027. However, only after 5 years the latest UN projection of 2022, said that India would surpass China’s population to wear the crown of the most populated country in the world. No resource in the country is growing at this rate, and hence we are heading towards a multiple crisis.
A Stanford study has indicated that by 2100, India’s population would shrink by 41 crore. However, it would not even be a good thing to happen, because when population growth becomes negative, knowledge and living standards stagnate for the population that gradually vanishes. The study emphasised that it would of course be a harmful outcome. India’s population density is estimated to fall significantly by that time, which would fall from the present 476 person per sq km to 335.
Climate crisis has also increased the incidents of droughts, floods, and other natural and man-made disasters. The increasing pressure on the population on resources will have other consequences too, such as conflicts among people, that may trigger law and order problems. Ensuring equitable access to resources and services, such as health services, transport, energy, etc., would pose a greater challenge. All these means that India needs a paradigm shift in its present planning structure and implementation of pro-people policies, rather than continuing the profit oriented mindset of the Narendra Modi government.