Fri, 19 Jul, 2019

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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