The main causes of big size and high growth of population can be broadly categorised into social and economic causes which are as below:
(i) Marriage is almost inevitable among men and women;
(ii) Motherhood is nearly universal among married women;
(iii) The custom of early marriage followed since many centuries has facilitated a wider range of reproductive period; (iv) The Net Production Rate (NPR) is greater than one, which means that women replace themselves by giving birth to more than one daughter which leads to constant rise in birth rate; (v) Wide¬spread illiteracy among people, especially woman is also a major contributor.
It has been proved that there is a direct relation between illiteracy and fertility; (vi) Superstitious beliefs and
myths that a male child is a must for salvation, social security and continuation of the family tree; and (vii) Misconceptions that the use of birth control measures lead to diseases, defects or general weakness.
The economic causes include (i) Children are considered to be an asset not a liability by the poor who look at them as source of income; (ii) Statistics also prove that the cost benefit ratio for a child is favourable to the poor; (iii) Lack of proper medical facilities and high mortality rate of infant to want more children; and (iv) There is also total lack of economic security for widows and elderly people which makes people go for children as economic security.
There are other reasons which cannot be classified as either social or economic reasons like lack of proper family planning techniques and facilities, high birth rate and low death rate.
Overpopulation has far-reaching consequences on every aspect of life of a country. These consequences will have to be studied in length before we can find appropriate measures to stem the root.
Overpopulation not only leads to but also perpetuates poverty. The economists are of the opinion that there are four main factors that make a country rich or poor:
1. National factors like location features and mineral resources available in the country.
2. Historical factors, i.e. whether a country has remained a colony of some other country and has suffered long economic exploitation, e.g. India under British rule.
3. Demographic factors, i.e. the size and growth of population.
4. Economic factors, i.e. availability of capital, technology, infrastructure, etc.
The demographic factors assume greater importance because natural factors remain constant and history cannot be changed. The large size of population means employment of lion’s share of the resources for the production of goods for the satisfaction of the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. The high rate of growth of population means continuing additional burden on these resources.
It is only due to unfavourable demographic factors that poor countries remain in perpetual poverty. The per capita income which is the indicator of richness of a country does not increase even with an increase in total income because the population which is a divisor in this equation also increases. The economists affirm that the sure way for a poor country is to increase its productive capacity by producing more capital goods like machinery. But as the overpopulated countries need consumer goods in large quantities to satisfy people’s wants it becomes difficult for them to employ their resources for the producing ‘producer’ goods and thus they remain under the vicious circle of poverty.
Another drawback of population explosion is that it makes all plans made for development of the country go haywire. Our own country created an autonomous Planning Commission and started a series of Five-Year Plans from the year 1951-52. But we have not been able to bring rapid development because our population which was 36.11 crore in 1951 has grown about three times today at approx. 108 crores. Naturally any development plan made for one person cannot be adequate for three.
The age composition of our population is also not favourable. It has been found that the working age group constitutes 60% of the total population falls in the dependent age groups of a high dependency ratio of 67% calculated as follows:
If we take into account the unemployment disguised unemployment and quasi unemployment into factor this would present a gloomier picture of our economy. Still further, if we consider that a high portion of those who are engaged in some type of work or the other are not technically trained and fall in the category of unskilled labour, we shall realise that our productive capacity is quite low. Under such conditions a high growth of population adds to the burden of our economy.
The large size of population also has an adverse impact on our natural resources. Coal, petroleum, natural gas, minerals and forests are being excessively used to set up more industries to manufacture various consumable articles to satisfy ever- increasing wants. As these resources are limited and exhaustible, they have been dwindling so drastically that soon they would exhaust completely. Forests are being cleared to bring more land under cultivation to provide food for increasing population and to make more settlements for their living.
Burning of fossil fuels in factories, vehicles and households has created another menace of environmental pollution. Injudisions use of water resources like rivers like, ponds, wells, streams and even oceans has caused water pollution. Many diseases have arisen to afflict human beings and affect vegetation as it is, the deforestation is likely to continue unabated which would further aggravate the problem.
Yet another problem is the migration of rural people to urban areas in search of better earning opportunities. The statistics show an alarming increase of 57% from 34% after independence. The crowding of urban localities demand more infrastructure, civic services, transport, health, sanitation and educational facilities providing which is not only a challenging task but also means an additional burden on the already inadequate economic resources.
As the stabilisation of population is the most significant task ahead of us, stringent measures are required in this direction. Some countries have sought to enforce legal remedies for this chronic malady. For example, China has applied the one child norm lay law. Some Indian states have barred the candidates having more than two children from any election. Such strict measures may work but their side effects may outweigh their benefit to society and country.
We need to address the problem of overpopulation in the broader sense and in a socially controlled way. This can be done by creating awareness among people and providing them the required means.