Our Population Trends

Our Population Trends
Last Thursday was the International Day of the girl child. Two days before that, the government came out with reports of rather disturbing trends in the changing demographic pattern relating to children—especially the girl child. According to official data, there has been quite an alarming drop in the overall number of children in India in the year 2011 compared to 2001. Between 2001 and 2011, the share of children to the total population declined substantially and this decline was sharper for female children in the age group of 0 to 6 years as revealed by a study titled “Children in India 2012—A Statistical Appraisal” conducted by the Central Statistical Organization. The study revealed that three million girls—one million more than boys—were missing in 2011. According to the study, though the overall sex ratio in the country has shown a trend of improvement, the child sex ratio showed a declining trend. The report shows that the female child population in the age group of 0 to 6 years was 78.83 million in 2001 which declined to 75.84 million in 2011. The population of girl children was 15.88 per cent of the total female population of 496.5 million in 2001, which declined to 12.9 per cent of the total number of 586.47 million women in 2011. In the same way, the population of male children also declined from 85.01 million in 2001 to 82.96 million in 2011. Compared to the three million decline in girl children, the decline in the number of boys in the same age group was just a shade over two million.

The sinister implications of the figures revealed by the study should make everyone in the country sit up. The first disquieting implication is that instead of a larger population of children we are heading towards a population comprising more of elderly people. Secondly, even though the sex ratio seems to have improved temporarily, the warning signs of the future are that in the next 15 or 20 years the sex ratio will get remarkably worse. Thirdly, along with more purposeful attempts at family planning, there is also the sinister implication that regardless of what the government may say and regardless of the notices about the illegality of sex determination practices relating to the unborn foetus in every hospital and nursing home, such sex determination and female foeticide have become quite rampant in the country. If this is the way India is planning to solve its dowry problem, we are only working overtime to usher in a terrible future replete with sex crimes at every street corner. A far more sensible way of dealing with the dowry menace is to reject dowry as a terrible social evil with the very visible antidotes that people are seeking through female foeticide being motivated largely by the nightmare of having to pay out dowries when families have three or four daughters for whom matches will have to be found in due course. The day is not far off, when the number of young men, unable to find brides for themselves because of an abnormally distorted sex ratio, will be driven to sex crimes. There are already clear indications of what happens when we tinker with the sex ratio by resorting to female foeticide. In some of the States with abnormal sex ratios there is already a notable increase in crimes like rape. With the sex ratio getting progressively worse in the coming decades, the climate for sex crimes can only get worse.

The government has paid very belated attention to the demographic changes in the age group of 0 to 6 years. This study should be extended to the eight districts of Assam where the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh have become a majority. The distribution of the population of the 0 to 6 age group largely as a result of polygamy will be found to be startling. Our Parliament will then have no option but to declare polygamy as illegal in our secular republic.



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