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Fertility Rates In India Fall Below Replacement Level, Signaling Population Is Stabilising. Some Good News!

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There are many aspects where India tops the list amongst other countries, one of them being population. I mean, after all, we are the second-most populous country in the world after China. The government as well as non-profit organizations, for many years, have been trying to get the population under control but it always has been a work in progress. But now, after all these years, their efforts have borne fruit. Yep, you read that right. The fertility rate has declined at the all-India level and that means the population of the country is now stabilising. Isn’t it good news? (ironic choice of words)

According to the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) that was released by the Union Health Ministry, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) or the average number of children per woman has declined to 2.0 from initial 2.2 (reported in 2015-16) at the all-India level. And all of this is thanks to the family planning programme that has been going on for decades.

The data collected in the NFHS 2019-21, the fifth in the survey series, shows that the fertility rate in urban areas is 1.6% and in rural areas, it is 2.1%. And according to Dr. K S James, who is a director at the International Institute for Population Sciences, the TFR of 2 is a “definite indicator” of the population getting stable in the long term in India.

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Dr. K S James told The Indian Express, “The number means two parents are replacing two children. In the long run, we will have a potential growth rate of zero. It is not immediate… A TFR of 2.1 is something a country wants to achieve. That way it is a very huge development because of maternal and child health improvement.”

In fact, even Prof. K Srinath Reddy who is one of the country’s top public health experts and also the president of the Public Health Foundation of India said, “The country has been aiming for a TFR of 2.1. A fall to 2 means we have achieved our goal of population stabilisation. This means we will possibly still become the most populous country in the world — it was expected somewhere between 2024-2028 — but it will now be delayed. It essentially means that we need not worry about a very large population being a challenge to our development… Importantly, we can no longer say that due to population growth, there is strain on our natural resources. Now if we are stabilising the population, there is really no excuse for neglecting the environment.”

The latest data collected by the NFHS also shows that there are only five states that have a TFR of above 2 – Bihar, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Manipur. The data also sheds light on several indicators that have helped in the decrease of TFR – the indicators are related to fertility, family planning, marriage age, and women’s empowerment. 

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The survey even goes on to indicate that there has been a significant increase in the current use of any modern contraceptive method. It stands at 56.5% in 2019-21 as compared to 47.8% in 2015-16. In fact, even the share of condoms has increased from 5.6% to 9.5%. 

Poonam Muttreja, executive director of Population Foundation of India, also said, “The Government must adopt a targeted social and behaviour-change communication strategy to ensure that men also take responsibility for family planning.”

I know that this is good news for our country and I am honestly proud of all the work the government has done to make it happen. But I also know that there is still a long way to go and along with the government even the society has to ensure that there is population control in India.


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