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The Mythical Population Problem and the Actual Worries

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Thomas Robert Malthus in his seminal essay written in 1798, An Essay on the Principle of Population, postulated that large population is a problem for nations, as human numbers grow in geometric progression while food resources grow arithmetically. Three centuries later, that idea has been thoroughly disproved as it fails to account for technological innovation in agriculture and human resourcefulness, through which people have not only been able to provide for themselves despite increasing numbers, but have actually bettered their condition, albeit very unequally, as reflected in improved overall human development indicators worldwide comparer to three centuries earlier.

Demographic transition theory suggests that populations of communities go through three different phases: first of high birth and death rates, second of high birth and low death rate (when population increases), and lastly of low birth and death rate (when population stabilises). India has been passing through these demographic stages for sometime and is now approaching the third phase of low fertility and mortality rates. Population projections by the UN and IHME suggest that Indian population is going to peak around 2050 at nearly 1.6 billion and would start declining steeply after that to come down to as much as 1.1 billion by 2100, with fertility rates down to as low as 1.19. But, recent projections about India taking over China’s population in 2023, which was bound to happen albeit it comes a few years early, saw Neo-Malthusians dancing to the tunes of population explosion rhetoric once again.

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