A Billion Too Many

7 Billion and Growing
7 Billion and Growing

One morning I was sitting in my verandah sipping a cup of tea which my wife had so fondly prepared when suddenly I was startled rudely by a strong commotion of dogs barking outside. It appeared that my neighbours helper had just discarded a piece of bread. Rest was bedlam. This set me thinking and the scene dissolved to a dusky evening at the North Eastern side of the Charbagh railway station, Lucknow. I was waiting for someone, accompained by my children when I saw an emaciated distraught figure scantily clad, skeleton all over foraging for whatever morsels, the more fortunate mortals had left for him in the drain. The fading light had added to his misery and my gloom. I closed my eyes – sad and frustrated and then told my children how furtunate they were.

And then this great news came – India crosses one billion – congratulations fellow countrymen. In this hour of heed, I thought I should also share my views with you. I wish somedody could prove them wrong. I sincerely pray for my country – my India.

The worlds population is estimated to be 7 billion by the year 2011 and 9.4 billion by the year 2020. An alarming situation – alarming because most of it could be in developing countries like India, still striving hard to cope up with basic necessities. People are expected to migrate to cities, cities where more than 60% people already live as habitat refugees. In absolute terms by the year 2025 , about 2904 million people are expected to be added to the worlds urban population of which 2609 million will be in the cities of the south. Cities which are already crowded. Chicago supports 2500 people per square kilometers, London 4000, Mexico City 34000, Manila 43,000 and Calcutta a stunning 88000 people per square kilometers. U.N. predictions also paint a grim picture. By 2010, 30 cities in Asia will have a population greater than 5 million (compared with only two U.S. and six European cities). Shanghai and Bombay will have 20 million and Beijing, Dacca, Jakarta, Manila, Tianjin, Calcutta and Delhi will have more than 15 million. This is suicide by all cognizable apprehensions.

The medium population projection of the expert committee on population projection, on which the overall planning for India is normally based had estimated that the 1981 population of 685 million would go up to 986 million in 2001. 1999, and we have already crossed these estimates. The growing population is expected to put tremendous pressures on our resources which – it is time that we realise – are finite. We have to therefore seriously think of our growing numbers if we want to climb to the upper reaches of the heirarchy of needs, to the realms of improved infrastructure, social and emotional security, fulfilled environmental objectives, health etc. As population grows additional resources are applied to provide for hasic necessities. Improvements in living conditions and in environmental quality then become a secondary priority. A hungry man will think of only bread and to expect him to think of the country is fallacy. In a system then, which is poor and hungry, thoughtfulness for the country is any bodys guess.

The growth in human numbers has been stupendous and blasphemous. While it had taken half a million years for modern man to reach a population of one billion, the next billion was added in 80 years (1850-1930) , the third billion was added in 30 years (1931-1960), the fourth billion in 15 years (1961-1975) and if prophecies come true we would have added another 3 billions in 25 years (1975-2000). Over whelming by all means – what does it have in store for us?

Man evolved as a part of nature, living in harmony with nature until he learnt to tame, to tame vegetaion, to tame fire and to tame animals. This gave him a power not felt by his ancestors of a million years. In further trying to tame the biogeochemical cycles he then went on a mad spree and murderous assault. The effects are evident. Poverty, desease, squalor, slums, air pollution, water pollution are things which more than a third of humanity is sharing its bed with. Resources are dwindling. A high demand for goods and services both basic and those percieved as essential in the present social web coupled with limited resources has resulted in deteriorating social and cultural values. Thefts, murders, kidnappings, corruption and suicides are the order of the day. Is this the social structure we had thought of? Humanity is in pain, insecure socially, culturally and environmentally. Families have broken down and so have values. The pressures of living are telling. What is then the solution?

Rural urban migration is a reality and a necessity. More than 300 rural families migrate to greater Bombay every day in search of employment and better living conditions. We have therefore to produce quality villages and market them, not as the packing but as the product. A marketing that is strengthened through sincere intentions, good example setting and high standards by people whom the nation looks to in its endeavour of total committment to social welfare. And if we are successful in producing our villages as complete socio economic entities where each man has an opportunity to work and prosper we will restrict the ballooning of our cities. New York, Los Angeles, Moscow, London have hardly grown by 3% (Over the 1970 population figures) in 30 years while Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi and some other developing cities have grown by over 40%.

The population that we produce is poor. In the past 15 years we may have added 300 million people to India’s population, out of these about 130 million people within the same period have been additionally forced to live below the poverty line, a startling 48% of the total rise in population. More than four hundred million people in India live below the poverty line. An alarming 40% of the total population.

Somedoby said that having a policy in which people with more than two children should not be allowed to hold public office would help. Yes, it may have its limitatios. Yet this somebody had alteast got an urge to be concerned and think – how many of us have? We can always think of a policy where beyond two children subsidies in education can be regulated. There are states which have also evolved systems of fiscal incentives in the shapes of bonds. This will certainly help. The problem is serious and therefore solutions whthin the constitutional framework would have to be found immediately through policies of reward and punishments. Punishments – I advocate, because the stakes are high, because I want India to emerge as a super power, because I am a common citizen of India who is weeping at anarchy and at anarchy becoming the rule.

India has great potentials – we are proud of it – but let us just not harp on our potentials let us rise to relise them. Let us all the do our duty, howsoever small, with the utmost sincerety, let us all realise again that resources are finite and will divide as we increase in numbers. Let us relise that the rate of increase has been and is catastrophically high and let us also realise that dominance leads to competition and competition leads to elimination and finally extinction.

In the end, I wish my analysis is faulty and my suggestions impractical and childish. I again wish somebody should come and prove me wrong.

Filed in: Biodiversity & Nature Conservation

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