One of the major problems that faces the world today is the rapid growth of population. Until about 800 AD the world’s population stayed below 200 million. Since then it has risen dramatically. The rise has been greatest in the 20th century. The population has risen to about six billion at present. It is three times as large as it was in 1960. It is not the actual population, but its rate of increase that is a cause of alarm. It was estimated to be 7 billion in 2012, and by 2040, it would be about 8 billion. Such a large population is bound to create many problems of different types.
The increasing population means the need for more food, more schools, more houses, more civic facilities, more hospitals and more everything else. This enormous increase in population is due to better food, better hygiene and above all, the advances made in medical science. It has conquered many diseases, as a consequence of which the death rate has decreased, but the birth rate has not decreased in that proportion. Until the beginning of the 19th century, most people died by the age of 50. Today in developing countries the average life span has risen to about 70 years. The population goes on increasing at an alarming rate in spite of the practice of birth control in many parts of the world.
India is the second most populous country in the world after China with a population of over one billion. India’s population has risen drastically since 1950. The population today is almost three times as large as it was in 1950. It is rising by about 1.9 percent per year, and in consequence, every year an extra 26 million people have to be provided for. The government is taking only half-hearted measures to check the population growth. The government encourages people to practise birth control; however these measures seem to have failed drastically. Recent advances in farming have made the country productive enough to feed a large population. Failure to arrest further increase of population may have disastrous effects, though there seems to be some truth in the statement made by Julian Simon, an English scholar, who said that although population growth means there will be more mouths to feed, there will be more hands to work at the same time. But this is not the right way to think.
The growth of population in India has created a large number of problems. We have not suffered from the shortage of food problem due to two reasons. The agricultural yield has increased and about 10 crore forest dwellers do not consume conventional food grains and edible oils. They sustain themselves on forest, fish, animals, roots and leaves.
One of the gravest problems created by the population explosion is the widening gulf between the rich and the poor. Most of the children are born in the poor rural families. The burden on land increases by this, so the people migrate to cities for jobs. There they live in slums which are the centres of crimes, bootlegging, smuggling and prostitution. The people lose their identity and become a part of all these evils.
Illiteracy increases in proportion to the rise in population. According to a World Bank Report, almost half of the illiterate people in the world live in India.
Poverty and ignorance generated by population explosion benefit the politicians at home. They can misguide the people. They can create rivalry among castes and religions for their selfish interest. They can purchase the votes of the poor and the ignorant. They frame different laws for different sections of society and allow them to multiply. This disparity is something like disintegration of the country under the false name of integration.