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Netaji Bose would be extremely concerned at the state of affairs in India today”, stated Narendra Modi as Gujarat Chief Minister on 6th July 2012. He was speaking at a function in Ahmedabad to mark foundation of Azad Hind Fauz.
Netaji would indeed be worried at political half-heartedness in grappling with population explosion (PE). It is an issue that perturbed him. As President of Congress Party, he minced no words in identifying as PE as the country’s foremost challenge.
Addressing 51st Congress Session at Haripura in Gujarat on 19th February 1938, Subhas Chandra Bose said: “With regard to the long-period programme for a free India, the first problem to tackle is that of our increasing population”.
He stated: “I simply want to point out that where poverty, starvation and disease are stalking the land, we cannot afford to have our population mounting up by thirty million during a single decade.  If the population goes up by leaps and bounds, as it has done in the recent past, our plans are likely to fall through”.  
He added: “It is not necessary at this stage to prescribe the methods that should be adopted to prevent a further increase in population but I would urge that public attention be drawn to this question”. 
If pre-partition India added 30 million to its population in 1930s in 10 years, post-partition India added 370 million in 18.5 years since 2000, a rate 20 times the one that rattled Netaji.
Demographic experts would be wondering why Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t invoke his role models Netaji or Vajpayeeji to add value to his maiden (as PM) concern over PE.
Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who risked his popularity ratings for national interests, gave a stern message to the nation on 11th May 2000. As PM, he stated: “Today, India's population has crossed the one billion mark. This is a serious matter that is both cause for concern and introspection -- concern over the impact that a runaway population growth is bound to have on the nation's economic, natural and other resources; introspection over where we went wrong and how we can stabilise our population”.
He added: “If the present growth rate of our population remains unchecked, India will become the world's most populous country by the middle of this century, with people clamouring for a share of shrinking natural resources. Essential requirements like drinking water, shelter and health will be difficult to meet. Moreover, there is no way that generation of employment opportunities, creation of physical infrastructure and maintenance of public services can keep pace with a runaway population growth”.
Sitting in heaven, Netaji might be discussing the demographic disaster with other India’s greats who too were concerned about unabated population growth before the Independence. These include Gurdev Ravindranath Tagore. Dr. B.R Ambedkar, Mahatama Gandhi, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu and Sir Joseph Bhore, who chaired Health Survey & Development Committee. This eye-opener, published in 1946, best yardstick to measure inclusive growth. 
Eighty years after Netaji’s speech, Mr. Modi finally mustered courage to say a few words on PE in his Independence Day address to the Nation on 15th August 2019. He merely urged the Nation to ponder over and debate population explosion. This sounds like a whipper when compared to his call for “revolutionary steps” to check this “biggest national crisis” that he made as Chief Minister in October 2004
And his homework-averse critics were quick to attack Mr. Modi’s humble appeal to the citizens. He urged them to introspect over the benefits that small families reap for themselves as well as for the Nation. 
On 16th August 2019, a leading daily, for instance, carried an editorial headlined “India no longer has a ‘population explosion’ problem. Coercive population control must be avoided”.
The critics forgot that Mr. Modi’s predecessors spoke boldly and repeatedly from ramparts of Red Fort & from other platforms. Several previous regimes either proposed or took stronger initiatives to manage the population bomb.  
What Modi critics don’t see is the fact that absolute number of poor is far more today than in 1938. The number of people living in slums is many-fold higher. So is the number of famished mothers. Similarly, the number of stunted children is much more.
Hunger and Malnutrition are India’s national shame. We are the world’s capital for many diseases that can be linked malnutrition, poverty and abuse of reproductive rights. Unemployment and underemployment is touching sky-high. Size of farm holdings has declined so much that whole-time farming can’t sustain countless households. 
People are increasingly getting at each other throat for every inch of space & for every bucket of water. Look at number of deaths due to violence over parking & water queues. Look at recent bloodshed in villages in Uttar Pradesh and Telanga na.  
With paltry 2.4% of landmass, India is home to 17.74% of the global population. Entire Indian population is “water stressed” as water availability is below the annual per capita norm of 1700 cubic metres. 
Per capita availability of resources is either declining or growing at a rate that is too low for dignified living by all citizens. Even Ostrich would not hide its face in sand from this stark reality.
India’s population has grown from an estimated 30-32 crore after 1947 partition to estimated 137 crore as on 21August 2019 as per data generated by Worldometers, an independent international statistics generating entity. 
Similarly, in its 3rd meeting in May 2019, the Government’s Technical Group on Population Projections, estimated India's population at 153.6 crore for year 2036.
India would not have come to such a pass had political class, as a whole, not paid lip service to the population control. Today ‘Agenda for India’ (AFI) is anathema for all political parties & mainstream media, excluding few enlightened MPs. 
Mind you AFI was unanimously passed by both houses of Parliament on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Independence in 1997.  AFI called for “a vigorous national campaign be launched by all political parties to combat economically unsustainable growth of population, recognising that such growth lies at the root of most of our human, social and economic problems”.
Unanimity was, however, conspicuous by its absence when it came passage of The Constitution (79th Amendment) Bill,1992. It was introduced by P.V. Narasimha Rao Government in Rajya Sabha.
This pending bill has three objectives: 1) amend Directive Principles to commit State (central & state governments) to promote population control 2) to disqualify a Member of Parliament or State Legislature for having more than two children with prospective effect 3) amend fundamental duties to obligate citizens to embrace small-family norm.
These issues are obviously politically not important for Modi Government as compared to enacting a law against Triple Talaq. 
It here apt to quote Biju Patnaik. As Chief Minister of Odisa, late Patnaik told National Development Council (NDC) that “due importance had not been assigned to the programme of population control during the post-independence period”. 
As recorded in the minutes of NDC’s 43rd meeting held during December 1991, Mr. Patnaik “called upon the Central Government to initiate action in this direction without bothering about electoral fortunes”.
Connect AFI with 1st five-year plan to see how citizens have acted as indifferent spectators to unsustainable population growth. The Plan (1951-56) stated: “The pressure of population in India is already so high that a reduction in the rate of growth must be regarded as a major desideratum. To some extent, improvement in living standards and more wide-spread education, especially among women, will themselves tend to lower the rate. But positive measures are also necessary for inculcation of the need and techniques of family planning (FP)”.
The voluntary approach towards FP failed to rein in population explosion. This brought in compulsory sterilization during June1975-March1977 when National Emergency was imposed.
The Janata Government did not wash its hands off from population control to sustain public resentment over Emergency excesses.  
In his address to the nation from Red Fort on 15th August 1977, Prime Minister Morarji Desai thus made an important implicit observation on population control without referring to it.  He pointed out that India progressed during 30 years after Independence but the fruits of progress did not reach 60 to 70 per cent of our population. They benefitted marginally.
Mr. Desai stated: “I do not like to find fault with anyone. We all are to be blamed. But we shotild learn from whatever had happened.If we do not ponder over it and continue to rpeat the same mistakes the very purpose of our freedom, which was to improVe thelot of our countrymen and to invest Indian culture with a new dignity so that we could hold our head high in the world, might remain unfulfilled”.
Janata Government’s stance was pithily expounded by Education Minister Dr P.C. Chunder. Addressing a seminar on 25th February 1978, he stated: “Though the present Government was against any kind of compulsion, it did not minimise the need for family planning. As rapid growth of population was nullifying the development achievements, it was absolutely necessary to adopt the family welfare programme having population limit as an important component”.
When Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980, Congress Party didn’t shy away from population control. Her Government’s resolve for country’s long-term interest was pitched well by the President. 
In his address to Parliament on 13th February 1982, President N.Sanjiva Reddy said: “The census of  1981 underlined anew the importance of population control. The Government gives high Priority to voluntary family planning as an essential ingredient of people’s well-being and national progress and have included it as part of the revised 20-Point programme. It is our objective to bring down the birth rate to 21 and the death rate to 9 per thousand by the end of the century”.
Even minority Governments showed courage to speak and act on demographic disaster. It is pertinent to recall what Prime Minister Chandrashekhar said at a ‘Meet the Press’ programme at Press Club, New Delhi. Answering a question, he stated: “I agree with you that population control is a must. If with the present speed we go on increasing the population, i think we will be in a serious trouble”.  
Take another case. Two PMs from minority, United Front Government, pressed PE alarm in their respective Independence Day speeches. HD Deve Gowda spoke on it on 15th August 1996 and his successor I.K. Gujaral on subsequent Independence Day. 
Mr. Gujaral spoke at length. He said his Government would unveil a national population policy (NPP) and enact a law for the same. As he put it: “We have to try and control the growing population and there are very strong reasons for this. The biggest reason is poverty because poverty, illiteracy and low status of women lead to an increase in population”.
They thus fared better than Modi Government, which got robust mandate from the public and yet overlooked India’s the number one enemy – Population bomb. 
In fact, Lack of Political Will on PE dazzled during UPA regime. It banished term ‘population control’ from official communications to appease vocal human right activists. It refused to revive two-child family norm.  It ruled out review of NPP 2000, which was issued unveiled by Vajpayee Government. It, however, retained NPP offshoot National Commission on Population.
Modi Government did not hold any meeting of this commission. Its website has disappeared. 
In February 2018, Modi Cabinet decided to close Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (JSK), an autonomous fund created in 2003 to finance means to create awareness about population stabilization strategies. JSK neither got regular funding from the Government nor from donors. The task of financing awareness about population control is now directly handled by the Ministry.
The Government also abolished family planning allowance in July 2017 on the recommendation of 7th Central Pay Commission. Charan Singh Government had introduced this allowance/incentive for Central Government employees in December 1979. 
It is thus clear that Both UPA & NDA Government have misgoverned population control. The population growth after 2000 could have easily been half of the present growth had NPP been implemented in letter and spirit
Let such delving into past create a stepping stone for transforming Mr. Modi’s call into concrete action plan for management of demographic disaster. 
Let citizens pray for Mr. Modi to draw strength and inspiration from his eternal guru, Babasaheb Ambedkar, chief architect of Indian Constitution and one of the greatest social reformers. As 14th and last child in his family, he had first-hand experience of PE.  
It is here pertinent to cite a speech delivered on Mr. Ambedkar’s behalf by P. J. Roham in Bombay Legislative Assembly on 10th November 1938. The speech is titled ‘On Measures For Birth-Control’.  
As put in the speech, “Very few have an adequate idea of the immense loss sustained by children born of persons who are handicapped either physically, mentally or financially. The parents as well as the society also suffer very much….” 
Lack of political will has turned the Nation into a mass of suffering citizens after the Independence. The sufferings have multiplied due to laxity in controlling influx of persons from neighbouring countries. 
                                                   
published by taxindiaonline.com on 27th August 2019
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