Op-ed: In India, population policy needs to go beyond the numbers alone

With a population of 1.37 billion and counting, India is poised to top China as the world’s most populous country by 2027. This poses policy, economic, and environmental challenges that the government will need to address.

In an August 20, 2019 op-ed published in The Print, S V Subramanian, professor of population health and geography at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Pritha Chatterjee, a PhD student in population health sciences, discussed steps the government could take to effectively, ethically, and equitably address population growth. The authors noted that among Indian states, there are wide variations in Total Fertility Rate (TFR), or the total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime if she were subject to the prevailing rate of age-specific fertility in the population. They suggested that the government bolster family planning services in high-TFR states and ensure effective implementation of legislation aimed at child marriage, which is a concern in all states reporting a high TFR.

Subramanian and Chatterjee also write that any public policy approach should not “blame the poor” or place the responsibility of family planning solely on women, inadvertently or otherwise.

“Population policy cannot be a matter of numbers alone, even when, on occasion, the ‘numbers’ may be desirable,” they wrote. “It is time for public policy on family planning to actively promote principles of collective action and shared responsibilities.”

Read The Print op-ed: If Modi govt wants to control population, it must target high fertility rates in these states