My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Are you in?

For long, the Indian central and state governments had encouraged family planning and a two-child paradigm. India had adopted China like measures- forced sterilizations during the emergency period, target based sterilizations etc. Interestingly, in many houses, TVs were switched off briefly for the two minute government sponsored advertisement about family planning in between the 20:30 news and the only prime time soap. These ads, which showed shiny happy village people talk merrily about nasbandi, the magic pills (Mala D), Copper Ts and PSU made condoms; were regarded as embarrassing moments by TV owning parents. The parents were not averse to the idea of family planning, but they also wanted their children to get educated about sex only through divine intervention. But those were the 90s.

In this century, population, rather, young population, is what every country aspires to have. Look at the awes of most developed countries like Germany, Scandiniavian countries, US etc. where an ageing population has led to severe mismatch between assets and liabilities for social security. All these countries (especially in Europe, Japan) are scared at the economic prospects of having a population where most people are retired and not contributing to the economy, and at the same time, require pensions, and have huge healthcare needs. And on the other hand, were experiences of forced family planning, as in China, which has led to severe consequences for mental peace for parents, and trends of increased abortions and even in some cases, female infanticide. International researchers highlighted the benefits of India's growing population and the Indian governments gradually became less vocal for need for family control. The target based sterilization policy was dropped in 1995 and the omnipresent family planning adverts were withdrawn. So much so, unlike the past, condoms became associated with steamy ads and MTV's anti-AIDS weeks in India, rather than the shiny happy village people of the 1990s. But fighting population continues in many quarters- in 2003, Haryana mandated a two child norm for election eligibility to public bodies, farmer benefits and PSU employee benefits were linked to family planning in Maharashtra.

So the question I have for the readers of this post is: Is India's demographics good or bad? Population puts a stress on nation’s infrastructure and some social welfare systems like education (while releasing stress on pension systems). But a continuous influx of youth into the labour markets keeps labor costs low and thereby keeps the country, an attractive area for investment. To be more precise, what about you? Does the country require you, or are you a nationally unwanted being from an economic viewpoint? Are you the third (as I am) or later child? Do you have prospects to earn and income and consume and thus contribute to the growth of the country? And finally, if you are nationally unwanted from the economic point of view, isn't it just nice to have you around?

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