Control corruption, not population
What the country actually needs urgently is a clampdown on corruption and not coercive measures to contain population
Story: Jesuin | George | 12th February 2019, 03:38 Hrs
Jesuin George Fernandes
Yoga guru Baba Ramdev wants people with more than two children to be disenfranchised. Jokers in the pack can be dismissed, but when 125 ruling party MPs petition the President to press for such a strict two-child rule that goes to the extent of making it punishable by imprisonment, the matter deserves some serious attention. Isn’t it a common refrain to blame our large population for all the ills that we cannot fix? Mention the problems of poverty, unemployment, crumbling infrastructure or poor services etc, and the same old clichéd excuse is given.
The idea of perceiving population as something negative has been systematically drilled into our minds since long with frightful terms like “population explosion” thrown around without discrimination. A country primarily means the people of the country and countries have progressed not despite the population but because of this most important and precious resource!
If America is a great and prosperous nation, it is because they have judiciously used their human resource to produce wealth.
India’s real problem is not the large population but our ineffectiveness in using this great resource to produce enough to meet the material needs of everyone.
Any kind of economic activity requires investment in machines/ tools, skills and knowledge. An alarmingly large percentage of Indians are not productive enough simply because either they don’t have access to capital or they are not skilled or educated enough.
And as long as blatant corruption thrives in the country, all efforts to empower the masses to create wealth for themselves and the nation will be rendered ineffective. All the schemes meant to uplift the poor get bogged down in the sands of corruption. What the country actually needs urgently is a clampdown on corruption and not coercive measures to contain population.
A look at Goan society over the years in terms of family size, economic prosperity, general well being and happiness may help in better understanding the dynamics of large families on socio-economic progress.
Goan families of yore were very large ones and the Portuguese government in fact encouraged this trend with incentives and rewards. Goan seamen who got home right on time every year to celebrate the christening of their last born, seldom joined back without ensuring a new addition to the family before they returned!
The poor and middle class households of the 1950s, 60s and 70s were resonating with life with a large brood of seven to eight children being the norm.
In comparison, the affluent sections of rich landlords had much smaller families – if the first born was a son (still considered the torch bearer of family legacy), the ‘batkars’ would often hang up their ‘boots’ prematurely, probably to avoid the family property from getting divided. Those were the tough days when it wasn’t rare to see children walking the long distances to school barefoot.
But as the saying goes, there is no better school of life than being part of a big family.
While the affluent sections of Goan society, the landlords, remained where they were (in many cases the land is all gone, only the lords are there), the common people of Goa made rapid progress on the socio-economic front.
Today, Goans are the most prosperous lot with the GDP per capita of Goa being the highest in the country. Goa is a fine example to show that large families do not necessarily mean getting trapped in the vicious inter-generational grip of poverty.
No matter what government statistics say (they consider anybody with voting right here as a Goan), the fertility rate of ethnic Goans is rapidly falling far below replacement levels. And if not for the migration from mainland India, Goa would have come to a grinding halt long time ago simply due to sheer shortage of manpower.
India is a young country in the sense that most of our people are in the working age group – this means more hands, more minds, more ideas, more factory workers, more farmers, more people to provide the services and even more soldiers to guard our borders.
This demographic dividend can catapult India to prosperity, but only if we can contain the scourge of blatant corruption - a la Singapore.
Before Singapore attained independence in 1959, it was a poor country mired in corruption. The PAP led government stepped up measures to eliminate corruption, at the centre of which was the Prevention of Corruption Act enacted in June 1960 that significantly strengthened the State in enforcing anti-corruption measures.
One of the first victims of this new legislation was a high-ranked government minister who was invited by a businessman to join him on a foreign holiday. The minister was promptly arrested on his return, investigated and sent to jail simply because he accepted the invitation.
Singapore has seen little corruption since this exemplary case and is today amongst the least corrupt countries of the world.
Rather than waging a war on population, India needs to wage a war on corruption and that too starting from the very top.
The world will always have enough for everybody’s needs- in Goa itself there is plenty of land, that can give three yields a year, lying fallow. If some countries have surplus population, many others are battling the serious problems created due to falling or ageing population.
All said and done, education is by all means, the most effective population control measure – wherever the literacy levels have gone up, the fertility rates have fallen sharply. Every child is a gift; human population should be allowed to grow freely without coercive controls.
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