The Population Policy of India Outline

ThePopulation Policy of India


  1. Abstract p.1

  2. Introduction p.3

  3. Main body

    1. The rationale behind India’s population policy p.3

    2. The inception and evolution of India’s population policy p.3-5

    3. The strategies of population control in India’s population policy p.5-7

    4. The success and failures of India’s population policy p.7-8

  4. Conclusion p.8-9

  5. Works cited p.10


Thispaper seeks to evaluate India’s population policy since itsinception by looking at its nature, successes and failures.Population policy denotes the government’s policy of controllingthe population of a country. The need for population control thus forpopulation policy arises from the realization of the problem thatrising population has a country’s economic development. Theimplication is that given scarce resources, to improve on people’sliving standards calls for curbing of highly rising populationgrowth. This paper will examine the rationale behind India’spopulation policy, the evolution of India’s population policy, thestrategies of population control enshrined in India’s populationpolicy and the achievements of India’s population policy.

Theconcept of population policy substantiates the contents of this paperand thus needs to be expounded by noting that population size, itstraits, its rural-urban distribution and its spatial distributiondetermine resource distribution as well as resource production. Thisimplies that it is a natural tendency for countries to intervene inthe rates of population growth. In most cases, democraticgovernments, which seek to intervene on the levels of poverty andimprove on the people’s living standards, opt for populationcontrol policies (UNDP 2). The implication is that the determinantsof population: death rates, birth rates and migration trends are ofconcern in population policies.


Indiais second in the list of most populous countries in the world. The2011 population census recorded that India had approximately 1.21billion persons. This was a growth from approximately 1.03 billionpersons recorded in the 2001 population census (Census India 38).Several factors account for the continued growth of India’spopulation. They include the existence of large population size ofthe reproductive age which contributes to more than 50 percent of thepopulation, unmet needs for contraception, high infant mortality rateleads to high deliberate fertility and early marriages for girlsbelow 18 years leading to high birth and reproductive rates. Indiawas the first country to incept a government policy regardingpopulation control (Tsui 184). Given the trends in population growthrate, it is expected of a country like India to device a populationpolicy as the most immediate remedy.

    1. The rationale behind India’s population policy

Therationale behind India’s population policy was based on theknowledge that poverty was threatening India, as a country. With thisin mind, it was evident that the rate at which the population wasgrowing was explosive and leading to a crisis. The statement notedthat the population increase was not proportional to the land are ofIndia. For instance, the statement compared India with Australianoting that the population increase was itself equal to the entirepopulation of Australia whose land size is two and a half times thatof India. It was noted that population increase was lowering theeconomic progress that had been realized in the recent past. Thestatement considered the problem of population as requiring nationalcommitment and priority if any fruits were to be realized in securingthe country from poor economic progress and abject poverty. Thestatement warned that a drop in fertility was not possible if let tobe steered by economic development and education factors. Initially,development and education were viewed as the best form of“contraceptive”. For this reason stricter measures in populationcontrol were necessary. These measures included, raising the age ofmarriage to a minimum of 21 years for boys and 18 years for girls,using the population statistics of 1971 in the allocation ofresources up to 2001, raising the level of girls’ education abovemiddle level among other measures.

    1. The inception and evolution of India’s population policy

Theinception of India’s population policy can be traced from early1950’s. Tsui (185) notes that India was the earliest country toadopt a population policy in 1951 through India’s PlanningCommission of 1951-1952 (UNDP 3). During this period, India wasconcerned about the prevailing fertility level which was marked by alarge number of children born by Indian women. However, by then Indiawas not concerned about the population growth but the need to improvepeople’s living standards. In reaction to the high fertility level,the government of India started, on the one hand, to initiate familyplanning techniques so as to reduce the number new born children. Onthe other hand, the government was also concerned about themalnutrition and infant mortality by initiating programs to curbthem. This implies that the version of population policy did not onlyencompass fertility but also mortality with an aim of improvingpeople’s quality of life.

By1966 India adopted and implemented a clear program for familyplanning (UNDP 4).This saw the replacement of clinic-oriented familyplanning approach with the extension approach. In this regard, thegovernment set a Department of Family Planning within the Ministry ofHealth. The main objective was to create awareness on family planningand to set population reduction targets to cut down on crude birthrates. During this period, initiatives to distribute condomsthroughout India were placed on major of consumer goods distributers’channels. The first population policy statement was released afterthe drafting of the 1974-1979 strategic plan. In this plan, it wasnoted that India faces a real poverty threat. In this regard, therewas need to eradicate abject poverty via initiating a Minimum NeedsProgramme with one of its components as family planning. Thisstatement was released in 1976 by Dr. Karan Singh (Neptel).

Thefirst policy statement remained to be at the center of populationcontrol campaigns through the 1980s. The 1991 census saw theformation of Karunakaran Committee which was initiated by theNational Development Council (UNDP 5). This committee called for thedrafting of a National population Policy (NPP) which was finalizedand announced in 2000 on cabinet’s approval. NPP 2000 acknowledgesthat the government of India is committed towards allowing informedand voluntary reproductive health strategies to all citizens. Itseeks to address contraception as one of the main issues (NationalCommission on Population Web). NPP 2000 immediate objective is tosolve unmet contraception needs. Its long term objective is theachievement of a stable population level by year 2045 in line withsustainable social development, environmental protection andsustainable economic progress. Some of the goals in line with theseobjectives include, reducing the family size, delay marriage ages,reduce child mortality, achieve one hundred percent registration ofmarriages, pregnancies and births among other goals.

    1. The strategies of population control in India’s population policy

Thereare several strategies enshrined in India’s population policy tocurb the rising population. Firstly, the policy sought to raise theage of marriage for both girls and boys. This is evident in both the1976 and 2000 policy formulations. The policies raised the age ofmarriage for girls to a minimum of 18 years and for boys to a minimumof 20-21 years. The rationale behind this was that the new marriageage would lead to responsible parenthood and secure the mother andchild’s health. This is because early pregnancies contribute tomaternal and infancy mortality. Hence, this strategy would help notonly in reducing the birth rates and thus population growth but alsoreduce maternal and infant mortality. The NPP 2010 had one of itsgoals as that of reducing infant mortality below thirty deaths in athousand live births and reducing maternal mortality below onehundred deaths in a hundred thousand live births (National Commissionon Population. Web). Moreover, early marriage had to be eradicated soas to allow women to contribute in economic development.

Secondly,the representation in States Legislatures and Lok Sabha was to bedetermined on the grounds of the 1971 census until the 2001 census.This is because some states which lowered their population levelstended to be lowly represented in the houses while those that did notcurb population growth were highly represented. This was the movethat was made by the 1976 policy statement. The implication was thatthe 1981 and the 1991 census results would not be used to decide thelevel of representation in legislature seats. This would hinderstates from encouraging unnecessary population growth. The NPP 2010extended the deadline of considering the 1971 census report forrepresentation to 2026.

Thirdly,it was established that there is close correlation between fertilityand illiteracy especially in girls (Neptel Web). The implication is,an improvement in the literacy level for girls leads to a drop in thefertility level. For this reason, the population policies setmeasures to ensure that the literacy level for girls is increased.Female education was given a priority consideration where they wereenabled to go beyond the middle level. Moreover, the governmentorganized informal education, on family planning and the implicationsof fertility, sessions for young women. The NPP 2010 one of its goalsas that of making basic education for up to fourteen years childrenfree and compulsory. NPP 2010 also set initiatives to curb secondaryand primary school drop outs up to below twenty percent for allchildren.

Fourthly,both the 1976 and 2000 policy statements advocated for a reducedfamily size. The statements called for the adoption of small familyhabit. This was to be accomplished by involving all governmentministries and departments as well as all states in India. The 1976statement considered the initiative of small family as beneficial notonly to the government but also to the family itself. In this regard,the government was to closely monitor the performance of each familyin terms of its size and the report reviewed at least once per year.One of NPP 2010 objectives was to vigorously promote the norm ofsmall family with an aim of promoting net replacement levels (TFR) byyear 2010. This would improve on family welfare and have an impact onsustainable economic growth.

Lastly,but not the least, and related to the issue of small family norm isthe initiative to monetary compensate those who embrace smallfamilies of two to three children per couple. The 1976 statementnoted that females and males who go for sterilization would becompensated depending on the number of children one has at the timeof sterilization. Those with less number of children would receivemore compensation than those with more children. This does not implythat the 1976 statement made sterilization compulsory. However, thestatement showed that the public favored compulsory sterilization andallowed that individual states which wished to pass a law forcompulsory sterilization could do so.

    1. The success and failures of India’s population policy

Onthe basis of the strategies undertaken by the Indian populationpolicy and on the basis of the current demographic trends in India,the success of the policy has been evaluated. For example, it wasreported that all Indian governments so far have not been able toformulate effective policies in handling the problem of populationgrowth (The Guardian Web). This is because there has not been aremarkable difference in the population growth of the 1970s (2.3% peryear) and by 2014 (1.6% per year). This is so even in the light ofextensive sterilization campaigns since the 1970s. To date, Indiastill remains to record the highest rates of male and femalesterilization and ironically the most populous country in the world.These remarks could, perhaps, give great evidence on the failure ofIndia’s population policy.

However,the reports of the census do not necessarily imply that thepopulation control policies have failed. But, the rates of growthbetween the censuses do not only reflect fertility but also mortalityrates. Given that the government did well in reducing the mortalityrates, it follows that the reduced fertility was compensated byreduced mortality thus recording a minimal decline in populationgrowth (UNDP 6). Evidence has shown that there has been a decline infertility which must be associated with the success of India’sfamily planning program. Moreover, the Population policy was aninclusive strategy to improve maternal health, reduce infantmortality and reduce maternal mortality as well as the overall healthstandards of Indians. In this regard, the success or the failure ofIndia’s population policy cannot be assessed on the grounds ofpopulation growth rate per se but on individual aspects of thepolicy.

Forexample, the mortality trends show that the rate of infant mortalityhas reduced from approximately 200-225 per one thousand live-birthsin 1947 to approximately 72 between 1996 and 1998 (UNDP 7). Moreover,life expectancy rose to approximately 60 years between 1991 and 1995from 32 years in the 1940s. The low mortality rate, which resultedfrom the success of some goals such as immunization and delayedmarriages, have an impact on the population numerical but does notimply the failure of the population policy.

  1. Conclusion

Fromthe foregoing, we can argue that even though India succeeded inindividual goals of population policy, it failed in achieving theoverall goal of reducing population growth. As it was noted earlier,the trend in which the population increased was perceived as a threatto economic development. However, despite the increase in populationIndia has been classified as one of the fastest growing economy aheadof China in 2015. Before 2019, India will be economically larger thanboth Germany and Japan combined as indicated by the InternationalMonetary Fund (The Telegraph). This implies that the populationfactor may not be a hindrance to economic development. Perhaps it istime for India to reconsider its population policy so as to lay focusnot on curbing population growth rate as such but on enriching thegoals that enhance sustainable development in line with increasingpopulation. This is because of the apparent failure in mitigatingpopulation growth despite the strict measures taken on sterilizationand other forms of family planning.


BurkeJason. “India’s Population Policies, Including femaleSterilisation, Beset by Problems” The Guardian. Web. November 13.2014.

CensusIndia. “Size Growth Rate and Distribution of Population”, 2011.Web URL: 7, 2015.

ChanPing Szu. “India to Overtake China as Fastest Growing LargeEconomy, Says IMF”. The Telegraph. Web. March 16. 2015.

Lecture34: Population Policy Statement by Dr. Karan Singh. NEPTEL. Web. n.d.May 7. 2015.

Tsui,Amy, O. Population Policies, Family Planning Programs, and Fertility:The Record. Web. URL: May 7. 2015.

UnitedNations Development Programme. Population Policy. n.d. Web URL: May 7, 2015.