An Indian Civilizational Perspective

India is hurtling towards misery as its population rockets to 2 billion by end of century!

India is set to pass China’s population by 2020 (India’s population hurtling toward the top). What does that mean for India? Specially when the sex ratio is going in the wrong direction.

First of all, let us look at the impact of higher population on India in future.

In India, the fertility rates range from 1.7 children in Kerala to 4.3 in Bihar. (The Future Population of India, PDF doc) At the rate at which we are growing, the Aug 2007 study by Population Foundation of India and Population Reference Bureau predicts a population of 2 billion by end of century.

The “Technical Group on Population Projections Constituted by the National Commission on Population”, in its report (Population Projections for India and States 2001-2026, PDF doc) project something similar to the PRB/PFI report. The number it project is 1.4 billion.

Are we getting younger?

One of the main arguments of those who gloat about India’s growing population is that India is getting younger and that lends itself to greater economic growth and less drag from the elderly population. But is that the case?

This report has an ominous prediction: by 2026, the old population of India is expected to more than double from that in 2001 – from 71 million in 2001 to 173 million in 2026. Is India’s Social Security system (Pensions) and the Health apparatus ready for this increase?

It further states that younger population will decline, as the elderly increase.

the proportion of population aged under 15 years is projected to decline from 35.4 to 23.4 percent; the proportion of the middle (15-59 years) and the older ages (60 years and above) are set to increase considerably.

While the increase may occur in the “Youth populaton” (15-24) until 2011 (this year), it will decline thereafter.

The youth population in the age- group 15-24 years is expected to increase from 195 million in 2001 to 240 million in 2011 and then continue to decrease to 224 million in 2026.

Further shockers abound. Urban population is set to increase from 28% in 2001 to 38% in 2026. With teaming cities bursting at their seams in every part of the country, unless we can create new cities and urban areas, Indian economic growth will suffer very badly. WIth growing urban population comes the pressure on the resources, which in any case, are in severly short supply! Poverty is both – a cause and effect of the environment degradation.

AIDS will be the biggest reason for death in the country by far.

11 million people are expected to die in the country due to AIDS at the end of the projection period 2026.

Another interesting study to look at is: “Environment and Health in India” by Dr. Dewaram A. Nagdeve of the International Institute for Population Sciences presented in June 2002 PDF Doc)

The paper quotes a World Bank Study in 1992, that may still be relevant.

estimated environmental damage in the year 1992 amounted to about US $ 10 billion or Rs. 34,000 crores, which is 4.5 % of GDP. Urban air pollution costs India US $ 1.3 billion a year. Water degradation leads to health costs amounting to US $ 5.7 million every year, nearly 60 percent of the total environmental cost. Soil erosion affects 83 to 163 million hectares of land every year. Beside, land degradation leads to productivity loss equal to US $ 2.4 billion or 4 to 6.3 percent of the agricultural productivity every year (UNDP 1998).

Water Supply, Sanitation, Housing etc are not able to keep up with the Urban population growth. So, we already know what is hurting India. That which hurts is on the rise – Urban growth!

Sex Ratio and Society

Sex Ratios in India is High – or Men outnumber Women. And this comes with the societal baggage where women still have traditional roles and their freedom – at least socially – is still not fully institutionalized. Also, the political power of men still provides the societal framework for numerous crimes.

In such a scenario, as the Men outnumber Women, so does their frustration. This frustration is showing up in Increase of Rapes in areas where the Sex Ratio is High – like North India – specially Delhi and Punjab.

Interestingly there is theoretical framework given in a book on the situation in societies with skewed Sex Ratios.

Marcia Guttentag and Paul Secord in their book “Too Many Women? The Sex Ratio Question” discussed the impact of uneven Sex Ratios. Both, when women outnumber men (Low Sex Ratio) and when Men outnumber Women (High Sex Ratio). (All the Single Ladies)

Guttentag-Secord theory, which holds that members of the gender in shorter supply are less dependent on their partners, because they have a greater number of alternative relationships available to them; that is, they have greater “dyadic power” than members of the sex in oversupply.

So how do the morals and mores play out in a society with either of the genders are in over-supply. The authors have an interesting predictive argument.

In societies where men heavily outnumber women—in what’s known as a “high-sex-ratio society”—women are valued and treated with deference and respect and use their high dyadic power to create loving, committed bonds with their partners and raise families. Rates of illegitimacy and divorce are low. Women’s traditional roles as mothers and homemakers are held in high esteem. In such situations, however, men also use the power of their greater numbers to limit women’s economic and political strength, and female literacy and labor-force participation drop.

One might hope that in low-sex-ratio societies—where women outnumber men—women would have the social and sexual advantage. (After all, didn’t the mythical all-female nation of Amazons capture men and keep them as their sex slaves?) But that’s not what happens: instead, when confronted with a surplus of women, men become promiscuous and unwilling to commit to a monogamous relationship. (Which, I suppose, might explain the Amazons’ need to keep men in slave quarters.) In societies with too many women, the theory holds, fewer people marry, and those who do marry do so later in life. Because men take advantage of the variety of potential partners available to them, women’s traditional roles are not valued, and because these women can’t rely on their partners to stick around, more turn to extrafamilial ambitions like education and career.

So strange situation exists in both situations:

High Sex Ratio > Men Outnumber Women > Tradition exerted. Women respected. Family values strengthened. Women forced to lower economic and political roles.
Low Sex Ratio > Women Outnumber Men > Promiscuity rules. Monogamous relationships under stress. Fewer marriages. Women leave Traditional Family roles.

But is India going to see something like this?

Given the fact that India has not completely emerged from the Traditional Women role situation, it is facing a situation where Women can further be potentially pushed into the homes more. Just as the women are emerging from the homes in India, comes a situation – if this book’s argument is to be believed – where things will get worse for them!

Conclusion

So, what does the future portend?

  1. An Older and less Younger India
  2. India with high AIDS related deaths
  3. High Sex Ratio leading to further crimes and subjugation of women
  4. Urban Growth, which will make India’s cities virtual “Hell Holes”

Can our economic growth withstand this onslaught?

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