Saturday, 1 June 2013


For long, uncontrolled rise of population in India was considered to be a curse to the development of the nation and a threat to the world by the Indian and international demographic experts! May be from mid nineties onwards I could see the change in that outlook . For a decade there after it is not a threat anymore! For the last five years they are of the opinion that India's growing population could be a strategic asset than the concerns it brings to the nation !! Now future of India is predicted to be economically colourful because of the young working people in millions it will have ! They even say it is a blessing in disguise! An aging US or Germany or any other developed nation  knows very well the importance having a young working population and its effect on economy. The prediction can be effective on the Indian economy between 2020 to 2050 . What's is this about ? Why this change? How far it is true ?

At Barath Mata college...
It was while I did my lessons in Humanities (Social Sciences)  in my Pre degree classes that I came across the Malthusian theory on population. That was in 1966. Robert Malthus, a clergyman of English church was the first Economist to predict a catastrophe for a country like India because of the rising population . As most of us know, it was simple but emphatic and prophetic. While the population grows in geometrical progression 1,2,4,8,16,32.....the food production grows at arithmetical progression 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8.......resulting in drastic food shortages, substantial increase in food prices and fall in living standards of people predicting a doom for such countries including famines and wars . The solutions he suggested to check the growth of population was late marriages or absence from sex ! He did that in 1798 and contraceptives like condoms was yet to be popular in the world!! His students affectionately called him 'Pop' (abbreviation of population , not pope) !! My teacher himself was a catholic priest . I still remember that he lectured the topic well , was proud that another priest has done this theory to the world but was not favouring birth control for obvious reasons , which later only I understood. Church of England or Orthodox church or Protestant church do not have problems for the birth control like Catholic church which has to this day.

Family Planning to Family welfare
It was in late nineteen sixties that planners in the Govt service of India started taking steps vigorously to reduce the rate of growth of population. Family Planning Department under Health Ministry was formed followed with massive recruitment of related staff in thousands . A new logo and slogan for the department was launched  .If I am not wrong the first factory to manufacture contraceptive condoms was commissioned in those years -Hindustan Latex in 1969. Campaigns of family planning was order of the day.

Being Indian families more of a conservative nature esp in public , it was not easy for the Govt to meet what they were looking for. Sex is not discussed in public in India .Even today kissing is banned in Indian cinemas or public. Censors see to that a pair do not kiss on lips in movies but allowed to kiss any other place than the lips !!This could be a new info for some of my European readers where they are allowed to do it in public including among same sex!! I do remember when Geetha and I were standing in a long queue to get entry to Eiffel Tower, Paris a decade back, we were amused by the 'sex acrobats' of one young couple in public who were standing in the same queue !! Thankfully it was a man and woman!!! No offence meant to Europeans , the way Indian men behave to the other sex of late, esp in and around Delhi is disgusting to say the least, even if it could be stray cases!

Some of the religions or its factions were against the move to family planning in India, as today, also made the efforts of Indian Govt more difficult to find the expected results. Kerala state was proactive in general to family planning campaigns right from start. To this day Kerala remains the first state among Indian states to have almost zero growth of population.

                                           Inverted red triangle-logo of family planning dept

I still remember a massive campaign in family planning hosted by the Govt under the leadership of an enterprising district collector at Kochi.It was in 1972 or 1973. Massive drive was made to attract men in thousands to the camp which lasted for 10 days or so to undergo vasectomy operations conducted by the doctors free . Incentives in cash and kind were distributed  from the money collected from the private sector industrialists . Those days India had just started making plastic house hold utensils, one of them being plastic buckets to replace the GI buckets used thus far. One of the popular freebies given to those who underwent vasectomy was colourful red plastic buckets . Even after many  years which followed if anyone is seen with a new plastic bucket , others used to smile because the plastic bucket was synonymous with vasectomy!!! The campaign was so much successful that the collector , who later became a minister, was nick named 'Nirodh 'Kumar since Nirodh was the brand name of the condom massively produced by the Govt and distributed at a very reduced price for the public .

The situation also brought a scenario like Mohamed Bin Tughlaq , ruler of Delhi faced in 1330 with issue of  copper coins from his royal treasury . Prices of Nirodh was so cheap that it was used in place of balloons . I vividly remember when one naughty group of youngsters sent up the air hundreds of inflated white coloured  'Nirodh' condoms as balloons to celebrate victory of Kerala team in Santhosh Trophy Foot ball tournament in the stadium in 1973 !

During 'Emergency' rule of 1975-76 , there were allegations of forceful means of implementation of family planning esp in north Indian states .After the ruling party failed in the general elections which followed , the new Govt changed the name of the ministry to Family welfare Department which remained to this day. Family Planning advertisements continue to be be made but with less fervour.

Green revolution, White revolution and Blue revolution....
Two planned events masterminded and executed by Indians in total made India escape from the doom predicted by Malthus- Green revolution and White revolution.

Green revolution which took place between 1967 to 1977 and further provided the increase in production in food grains -rice, wheat and pulses- needed to make India self sufficient. Under the leadership of Dr.Swaminathan the scheme took off systematically making use of high-yielding variety of seeds, fertilizer and irrigation. A number of agricultural institutes, tens of fertilizer factories and thousands of irrigation schemes were launched during this period. Farmers were educated on right use of crops, effective controls of the markets where the farmer is benefited is ensured. In just 10 years India could change her status from a food deficient country to one of the leading agricultural nations including exports to others!!


White Revolution which is also known as 'Operation Flood' was in fact was the brain child of Varghese Kurien who was appointed as Chairman of National Dairy Development Board .The project was launched in 1970 by the Govt .Making use of the experience he himself could gain from setting up the brand 'AMUL' from inception to what we see today ,Kurien spearheaded a lot of planning followed up by actions to form a national milk grid linking producers throughout India with consumers. The phenomenal growth of milk production from 20MT in 1970 to 100MT in 1998 was based on the 'Amul model'. His book titled 'I too had a dream' is one which I have rarely read  more than once ! Finally India got converted from a milk deficient nation to the largest producer of milk in the world surpassing US in 1998 !! Kurien who is known as 'milk man of India' died in 2012 at his 90 plus.

                                                Advt by Amul on the occasion of Kurien at 90

Blue revolution is the water equivalent of the Green revolution ,primarily aiming for the proper management of water sources in the country for quality drinking water , water for irrigation of crops and inland aquaculture . Taken up recently in the country as a part of universal drive for the same is in the initial stages and expected results may come in 2025 provided Indians find a Kurien or Swaminathan or a Abdul Kalam ,Ex President of India who took the country up in space research and above all a good human being .
 In fact some of the Indians as professional individuals are out standing, could be the best in the world but when it comes to Indian systems as a whole , it is yet to be professionalised compared to those existing in developed countries . In the west it is the systems ,which they have fine tuned to the levels what they are now over last few decades, if not a century ,that takes them ahead . That's why one will find that in general ,Indians working abroad climb up the ladders of recognitions much faster than in India when they find a much more seasoned, streamed lined systems.

In countries like US where an Indian immigrant is free to work and live with ample opportunities along with local population even if it is competitive  the rise of an Indian is unprecedented . More than being just known as spelling bees, Indians in America are well known as excellent doctors- physicians and surgeons, engineers and IT techies. Indian Americans constitute less than 1% of population but contribute almost 10% of the doctors in US! Almost 40% scientists and engineers working in NASA including their contracting firms are Asian Indians ,as Americans officially call them in order to differentiate from Red Indians. When I visited NASA Houston, only as a visitor, few years back  I could notice this myself. In lead software companies like Microsoft , Indian presence is as good as 40%!!

A demographic dividend?

India will be the youngest nation by 2020. Average age of an Indian then will be 29 years . Having such an enormous young population, if it is linked to high productivity jobs the out put increases tremendously which will have an direct impact on the economy. Provided this rise in young working population is healthy, educated and appropriately skilled , the effect will tilt the world economy in India's favour. Yes, there are few 'if s' attached but still it is an golden opportunity for India to grab. Already this point is discussed in my article titled, Can India Make it? in this blog.

Did Malthus go wrong in the case of India?    
Yes and No. India did not fail as predicted but standard of living of the people has to be improved to a greater extent. Poverty exists among a section of people although India has come up a lot since it attained independence. More because of social reasons like corruption than demographic but still poverty is unwarranted. In this way Malthus cannot be written off completely in India albeit he is  very much valid in many under developed countries of the world and will remain so.
 In India the % of middle class has increased many folds and their standard is moving from unbranded to branded! But what is the definition of a good standards of living ? I think it is more related to one's health, education, social equality and good environments of living than whether he or she eats meat or drink coke or eat -out-of-home, the way some of the multi national economic consultants bank on to find out buying power or standards of people !