THERE IS AN interesting thought experiment to be done about the Parsis. Their numbers, as has been clear for decades, are decreasing and the decline, according to most, is terminal. Meanwhile, the Parsi Panchayat holds enormous property in common for the community and that, too, in cities like Mumbai where real estate prices are at the stratosphere. At some point therefore, should the decline not be stemmed, there could be one last Parsi left, and he or she would then probably be the wealthiest person in India. Let’s, however, move on from imagining the future to the past and ask why did the Parsi numbers start coming down? Because population has a direct correlation to how materially a community progresses. As Parsis became more prosperous, their propensity for having children decreased. This is true elsewhere too. The entire First World, from Japan to the Scandinavian countries, is facing the same phenomenon.
We need to remember this when the government entangles itself in a controversy over how much Indians should procreate. It was Tourism Minister Prahlad Patel who first set the ball rolling a week ago by stating that a law on population control was on the agenda and is imminent, echoing the long history of India’s governments to somehow solve the ‘problem’. But on June 8, the health ministry seemed to suggest that there was no such plan. The Times of India reported: “Sources said that Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya is strongly opposed to the idea of regulating population by force at a time when campaigns and awareness creation are showing results and have led to a dip in numbers, top official sources said. ‘We are not workng on any proposal to bring a law or a policy on population control,’ a senior health ministry official told ToI.” In between, Bharatiya Janata Party President JP Nadda, replying to a question, gave a non-committal answer which neither ruled out, nor confirmed any such plan.
Doing anything about the population is needless because it will come down without the government having to lift a single finger. All it has to do is to ensure economic progress, or at the very least, not allow growth to go into negative territory. Other social factors from women’s literacy (being employed does not allow for too many children) to decreasng child mortality rates (no need for back-ups) are also taking away reasons for Indians to have more children. Two children are about what most couples have a tolerance for once they step into the lower-middle class, and almost every Indian is going to get there soon.
Why then waste energies on a solution to what is not a problem? Because it is easy to look at population as the cause of India’s backwardness rather than a history of economic policies that prevented growth. It is the long arm of the government that did this because a true entrepreneurial environment needs freedom from red tape and corruption. There is no reason to decrease the size of the government when the size of the population remains a ready excuse.