Hindu devotees listen to a religious leader at the Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers, during the annual traditional fair of Magh Mela festival, in Prayagraj, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Jan. 31, 2023. - Sputnik India

Is India Ready to Be Most Populated Country on Earth?

Deexa Khanduri
India surpassed China to become the most populous country in the world in April with 1.428 billion people.
Global experts have expressed mixed reactions upon the recent news that India is the most populated country in the world.
  • Geographically, India is the seventh largest nation in the world, facing many challenges from unemployment to climate change, as well as social and developmental issues.
  • Only 75 years ago, the nation started building itself after suffering the devastation of long colonial and imperial humiliations and war. Now, India's economy is among the top five GDP's in the world.
  • India is known for its space exploration, is a global leader in IT industry, as well as being famous for its Bollywood industry, nuclear technology, yoga and meditation, international sports stars, and much more.
All this demonstrates that the country has successfully set a landmark over the past 75 years and promises a positive future.
Researcher in population science Dr. Nandlal Mishra from the International Institute for Population Sciences said India's increasing population is not a challenge for the country and that India doesn't require any population control measure.
No Controls Needed
"Population growth does not require active control measures in India as the total fertility rate has already dropped below the replacement level (TFR=2.1). Population growth is still occurring due to the phenomenon known as population momentum, which will continue until 2060 when our population is projected to stabilize at 1.6 billion," Mishra said.
Only three major states - Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand - have a TFR higher than 2.1.
In the 1960s, India's fertility rate was six, around the same rate as some African countries today. However, it has been dropping since then.
Explaining further, Mishra said that India is currently in the third stage of a demographic transition characterized by a declining birth rate and an increasingly aging population.
This transition phase presents a unique challenge of simultaneously caring for the dependent population — children and older people.
At the macro level, the economically-active population in India is nearly 1.5 times the dependent population, which offers the potential for a demographic dividend and economic prosperity.
Currently, 40% of India's population is aged below 25. The Pew Research Center estimates India's average age is 28, compared with 38 in the United States and 39 in China.
What Are the Challenges?
India's rapidly-growing population presents several policy challenges, particularly ensuring adequate healthcare, education, and employment opportunities.
Mishra said that focusing on primary healthcare remains one of the focus issues, including improving immunization coverage, maternal and child health services, nutrition programs, and disease-prevention camps.
The researcher offered some pointers on how India could positively handle these challenges.
  • Skill development and job creation
"Implement policies that promote skill development programs and entrepreneurship opportunities. Foster collaboration between government, industries, and educational institutions to bridge the gap between education and employment. Encourage the growth of industries and promote investment to create more job opportunities," Mishra said.
  • Urban planning and development
Focus on planned urbanization and development to accommodate the growing population in cities. He opined that this includes creating sustainable urban infrastructure, affordable housing, transportation networks, and access to basic amenities such as clean water, sanitation, and electricity.
  • Social welfare programs
Implement targeted social welfare programs that provide financial assistance, healthcare benefits, and educational support to economically-disadvantaged sections of society.
The expert asserted that these programs can help improve the quality of life for marginalized communities and ensure equal opportunities for all.
  • Data-driven policymaking
Strengthen data collection systems and utilize data analytics to identify population trends, healthcare needs, education gaps, and employment patterns.
He added that this data could inform evidence-based policymaking, resource allocation, and program evaluation to ensure efficient and targeted measures.
Mishra further added that by implementing these strategies, India could address the policy challenges associated with its rapidly-growing population and work towards providing adequate healthcare, education, and employment opportunities for its citizens.
However, it is important to recognize that addressing these challenges is a complex and long-term process requiring sustained commitment, investment, and collaboration from all stakeholders.
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