Tuesday, May 18, 2010

MGNREGA in Dungarpur, Rajasthan under scanner

The District Administration of Dungarpur has found embezzlement of MGNREGA funds in many of the road construction work and other activities. A sum of Rs. 58,35,766 has been recovered from the Jharni Gram Panchayat, which comes under the Simalwada Panchayat Committee. A monitoring and evaluation team was formed under the District Collector Purna Chandra Kishan to check mismanagement of MGNREGA funds. The team has been looking into the technical and accounting aspects of the work done so far. It has been learnt that more funds are likely to be recovered from the former Sarpanch and the contractors/ suppliers.

The District Collector Purna Chandra Kishan has informed that during the evaluation, it has been found that the work done under MGNREGA have not been done as per the rules. The 2 monitoring teams sent have found that in 16 different work, that amounted to Rs. 63,26,110, payments were made without getting the requisite material from the contractors and without the work being completed. Vouchers were fudged and contracts for supply of materials were given to near and dear ones. The evaluation team has accused Jaisha Bhai Domar, Manilal Prapat, Maganlal Baranda and Gautamlal Baranda for making payments to the contractors without getting the construction material.

The evaluation report has mentioned the names of Ramlal Domar, Pankaj Kumar, Shantilal, Manoj Aamliya Rastapal, Hemant Kumar Shah, Shakarlal and Mansingh Domar from whom the siphoned off funds of MGNREGA would be recovered.

The Collector Purna Chandra Kishan has given the instruction that if funds are not repaid back within a week, FIRs would be made against the accused i.e. the former Gram Sarpanch and the suppliers.

Further readings:

Poor people unite against corrupt sarpanches,

The system strikes back by Vidya Subrahmaniam, The Hindu, 17 December, 2009,

We will not sit quiet on social audit issue in NREGS, Aruna Roy tells Gehlot government by Sunny Sebastian, The Hindu, 17 December, 2009,

Violence and threats bring a government to its knees by Vidya Subrahmaniam, The Hindu, 16 December, 2009,

Planning Commission drafting reforms for NREGA, Livemint,20 October, 2009,

Social audits lead to action against corrupt officials,

Status of NREGS in Bhilwara, Rajasthan during 2008-09,

Bhilwara Social Audit, Association for India’s Development,

Social Audit in Rajasthan Undertaken by People, October 12, 2009,

How a social audit makes people accountable, 5 October, 2009,

12 FIRs in Bhilwara after social audit of NREGS, 12 October, 2009, The Times of India,

NREGS under scanner in Bhilwara by Sunny Sebastian, The Hindu, 10 October, 2009,

Audit of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, 7 October, 2009,

NREGS audit a relief to poverty-stricken by Narayan Bareth, The Asian Age, 12 October, 2009,

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Revisiting Malthus and his critiques

Abstract: The world is currently watching the rise of Neo-Malthusianism, which wants us to believe that climate change and agricultural production are going to be adversely affected by rising population pressure. In this context, an attempt has been made to understand the dogma present within the Malthusian framework. The purpose is to critique Malthus by taking note of the work done by Danish feminist economist Ester Boserup. The article is based on a survey of existing literature.

Rise of Neo-Malthusianism in the North

During January, 2010, I got the opportunity to listen to an interesting interview of Betsy Hartmann, which was conducted by Dr. Amit Sen Gupta. The interview appeared at http://www.newsclick.in/international/betsy-hartmann-climate-change-politics-and-overpopulation-propoganda. Author and activist Betsy Hartmann talks about how the issue of overpopulation is entering the climate change discourse. She has the experience of working in the areas of women's health and population.

During the interview, one comes to know that in the United States (US) there has been an attempt recently to link the issue of population explosion to climate change. The population bogey has been brought back into the population discourse. In her interview, Betsy Hartmann tells that there has been resurgence of the population control ideology in the US. This is happening in the spheres of environment and family planning movements. The argument, which is provided, is that overpopulation is the main cause behind climate change. Therefore, family planning either of the voluntary type or the Chinese type is prescribed. However, this could be detrimental to reproductive rights and also detrimental to the US in coming up with a good climate change policy, argues Hartmann. Some of the population lobbies are demanding for increased assistance for international family planning. A fear surrounding climate change due to overpopulation is being created. Climate change is also getting associated with the issue of national security. Some lobbies are arguing that climate change would lead to overflowing of climate refugees into the US borders. This would create more resource scarcity. In Africa, climate conflict is expected particularly in Darfur and Sudan. The Malthusian environmentalists are now using the concept of ‘population bomb’ so as to propagate such theories. Somehow the US is trying to divert the real issue that it has to cut down its own greenhouse gas (GHG) emission. Instead of blaming itself and taking necessary steps, it has started blaming the poor people in the developing world for climate change. In fact, historically, the US has been the largest emitter of GHGs. It has been argued by the population lobbies that if women have access to family planning, then climate change can be mitigated. Some lobbies have even gone to the extent of saying that climate refugees from Bangladesh are going to enter India and they are then going to spread Islamic terror within the country. Such population lobbies and pundits are also active in the United Kingdom (UK). Instead of investing in green technologies and other such possible solutions, these population lobbies are asking for investing money in family planning. Women in the North are made to believe that having children is too bad for climate change.

The climate justice movement in the US is more progressive since it demands more equity and environmental justice, Hartmann informs. This particular movement talks about the role of fossil fuel industry in spreading toxic pollution among the poor communities. The movement is also asking for reduction in carbon emission. Hartmann praises the 350 movement (http://www.350.org/). At the policy level, there are experts who are working on carbon capping policy. California is serious about capping carbon emissions. She warns about certain defense interests active in the US and the UK who are painting climate change as a security threat.

About Malthus and Neo-Malthusian scholars

During the time when human beings started food cultivation 12,000 years back, world population was no more than 5 million. At the beginning of the common era 2,000 years before, world population grew to 250 million. From A.D. 1 to the beginning of the industrial revolution around 1750, global population tripled to 728 million. During the next 200 years (1750-1950), an additional 1.7 billion people were added to the total population. Between 1950 and 1990, world population more than doubled to reach 5.3 billion. By the beginning of the twenty first century, the world saw a population of 6.1 billion (Todaro and Smith, 2006).

India had a population of around 336 million in 1947. The provisional results of the 2001 Census gave a population total of 1,027 million. The current population growth rate is about 1.7 percent per annum, which implies an annual net addition to India's population of around 18 million people. In the years around 1947, the fertility of an average Indian woman was nearly 6.0 live births. After rising in the 1950s and early 1960s, the national birth rate probably started to decline in the late 1960s, and in 2003 the average level of fertility came down to 3.1 live births per woman (Dyson, 2003).

After going through some of these figures, one would certainly feel that India must have been doing well in terms of reducing population growth in the recent decades. This may be because of the fear that has been generated in us that population growth is bad for the nation and its citizens. A survey of literature surrounding population and fertility control may tell us a different story.

Mohan Rao (1994) in the article titled An Imagined Reality: Malthusianism, Neo-Malthusianism and Population Myths explains the basic postulates of Malthusian theory. According to Malthus, population when unchecked increases in geometric progression, doubling every 30 to 40 years, whereas food production increases by arithmetic progression due to diminishing returns to the fixed factor—land. Growth of population is determined by the availability of food. Growth of population beyond availability of food is halted by two things: positive checks such as hunger, famine and pestilence and preventive check i.e. birth control. An increase in wages over and above the subsistence wage would be followed by rise in population till checked by poverty.

Marx believed that poverty of the laboring classes was the inevitable product of the capitalist process of accumulation and cannot be considered as a natural condition for the section of the society, unlike what Malthus proposed. In the essay titled Malthus’ Essay on Population at Age 200: A Marxian View, John Bellamy Foster (2000) finds that future improvements in the condition of society and the condition of the poor were impossible, according to Malthus. Before Malthus, it was the work titled Various Prospects for Mankind, Nature, and Providence by Robert Wallace that found population pressure resulting in resource depletion. William Godwin, who was critical of Wallace, in his work titled Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and its Influence on Morals and Happiness contended that human population growth will be determined by the conditions of wealth and wages as well as various (birth control) practices and institutions prevailing in the society. Malthus saw the fertility of the soil as subject to only very limited improvement.

In India, Annie Basant, who supported Neo-Malthusianism, was a champion of the birth control movement. Besant along with CR Drysdale founded the Neo-Malthusian League in 1877, informs Rao (1994). Birth control was seen as a solution to end poverty and misery. Following the crystallization of the Theory of Demographic Transition, the Western demographers and the economists started looking at the problem of population growth resulting in poverty in South Asia. Both Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation allocated huge sums of money for research and training in reproductive biology and to finance family planning programmes, finds Rao (1994). In 1952, the Population Council was established. Many of these Foundations funded reputed journals in the area of family planning. By the late 1960s, many of the United Nations agencies got involved in population control programmes in the third world countries after coming under the influence of the US.

Demographers fear that high fertility would produce low rates of saving instead of higher effective demand that can boost economic performance. Rao (1994) shows how the family planning programme, on its part, swayed from the extension education approach, to the IUCD approach, to the vasectomy camp approach, and finally to female sterilization.

For a critical review of the book titled Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population by Matthew Connelly (2008), one can have a look of the review article titled Playing God: The Global Population Control Movement by Mohan Rao (2008). According to Rao (2008), the book shows with “meticulous attention to details of ideas, personalities and funding, how the global population control movement was created, tracing the extraordinary unfolding of population policies under the guidance of this movement, in India and China in particular”.

According to the Neo-Malthusian scholars, land scarcity combined with high rates of population growth would lead to armed conflict, informs Henrik Urdal (2005) in the essay People vs. Malthus: Population Pressure, Environmental Degradation, and Armed Conflict Revisited. Urdal (2005) informs that at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, a wave of Neo- Malthusian literature emerged, which predicted that the rapidly growing world population would soon exceed the resource base and lead to serious environmental destruction, widespread hunger, and violent conflicts. A renewed and more pronounced Neo- Malthusian concern over security made its inroads in the 1990s. Demographic and environmental factors were considered as major causes of conflict after the end of the Cold War. However, the Neo-Malthusian paradigm was challenged by three arguments. Firstly, resources are not scarce at the global level and there won’t be any resource crunch due to population growth. Secondly, if resources are getting scarcer, their prices would move up, thus lowering their demand. The market mechanism will help in tackling the problem of resource scarcity. Thirdly, it is the abundance of valuable natural resources, rather than scarcity that leads to violent conflict.

Urdal’s (2005) study explains the Homer-Dixon model, which proposes that the resource scarcity and conflict scenario is more applicable to developing countries, owing to generally lower capacity to deal with environmental issues and less ability to cope with and adapt to scarcity.

The paper titled Economic Growth and the Demographic Transition by David E. Bloom, David Canning and Jaypee Sevilla (2001) finds that the debate on population growth versus economic growth has under-emphasized a critical issue, the age structure of the population (that is, the way in which the population is distributed across different age groups), which can change dramatically as the population grows. Since people's economic behavior varies at different stages of life, changes in a country's age structure can have significant effects on its economic performance. Nations with a high proportion of either children or aged people or both are likely to devote a high proportion of resources to their care, which tends to depress the pace of economic growth. A large share of resources is needed by a relatively less productive segment of the population, which can inhibit economic growth. By contrast, if most of a nation's population falls within the working ages, the added productivity of this group can produce a "demographic dividend" of economic growth, assuming that policies to take advantage of this are in place. The combined effect of large working-age population and health, family, labor, financial, and human capital policies can create virtuous cycles of wealth creation.

The paper by David E. Bloom, David Canning and Jaypee Sevilla (2001) shows that in the late 1940s, conservationists saw excessive population growth as a threat to food supplies and natural resources. Concerns about the impact of rapid population growth and high fertility led to widespread implementation of family planning programmes in many areas of the developing world. In 1968 Paul Ehrlich released his influential book "The Population Bomb". In the book Ehrlich warns of the mass starvation of humans in 1970s and 1980s due to overpopulation and advocates immediate action to limit population growth. Unfortunately, the prediction of Ehrlich did not realize thanks to the success of green revolution (originally an initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation), which made countries like India self-sufficient in foodgrain production.

Close association between climate change and agricultural production

Much of research work has taken place on how climate change can affect agricultural production and vice-versa. The study by Sushila Kaul titled Bio-Economic Modelling of Climate Change on Crop Production in India reveals that excessive rains and extreme variation in temperature would affect the crop (rice and jowar) productivity adversely thereby affecting the incomes of farming families in a negative manner. The study Global climate change and agricultural production captures the indirect effects of climate change on agriculture. These effects, which are mostly quoted by the media include:

* the overall predictability of weather and climate would decrease, making the day-to-day and medium-term planning of farm operations more difficult;

* loss of biodiversity from some of the most fragile environments, such as tropical forests and mangroves;

* sea-level rise (40 cm in the coming 100 years) would submerge some valuable coastal agricultural land;

* the incidence of diseases and pests, especially alien ones, could increase;

* present (agro) ecological zones could shift in some cases over hundreds of kilometres horizontally, and hundreds of metres altitudinally, with the hazard that some plants, especially trees, and animal species cannot follow in time, and that farming systems cannot adjust themselves in time;

* higher temperatures would allow seasonally longer plant growth and crop growing in cool and mountainous areas, allowing in some cases increased cropping and production. In contrast, in already warm areas climate change can cause reduced productivity;

* the current imbalance of food production between cool and temperate regions and tropical and subtropical regions could worsen.

According to Climate change: Building the resilience of poor rural communities by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD),

• Between 15 and 37 per cent of land plants and animal species could become extinct by 2050 as a result of climate change

• Emissions of greenhouse gases have increased, on average, by 1.6 per cent per year over the past 30 years

• Agriculture and deforestation together contribute up to 30 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions: forests act as carbon sinks, so deforestation results in higher carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

• Recent climate changes and variations are beginning to have effects on many natural and human systems, including earlier spring crop planting at the higher latitudes in the northern hemisphere

• Yields from rainfed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 per cent by 2020 in some countries

• In Central and South Asia, yields could decrease by 30 per cent by 2050

According to the report The State of World Population 2009 (UNFPA): Facing a changing world: Women, population and climate,

• The temperature increase since the late 1800s may seem small—0.74 degrees Celsius—but the impact on people is likely to be profound. The impact will be even greater as temperatures continue rising, by as much as 6.4 degrees Celsius by 2100.

• Rice-growing, livestock-raising, and burning organic wastes have more than doubled methane concentrations. The use of artificial fertilizers, made possible by techniques developed in the early 20th century, has released large amounts of another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, into air and water.

• Since 2000, “anthropogenic” or human-caused carbon-dioxide emissions have been increasing four times faster than in the previous decade. Most of the emissions came from burning fossil fuels.

• The World Health Organization estimates that in 2000 some 150,000 excess deaths were occurring annually—in extreme heat waves, storms, or similar events—as a result of climate change that had occurred since the 1970s.

• The additional greenhouse gases that come from intense burning of fossil fuels, modern farming methods that rely on fertilizers, and the industrial use of chlorofluorocarbons, particularly in the past 40 years, have thrown the earth’s natural greenhouse effect into a state of disequilibrium. In addition, deforestation, clearing of other vegetation and the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the oceans have reduced the capacity of the world’s “carbon sinks,” which have for millennia absorbed excess carbon from the atmosphere. Less capacity to absorb carbon means there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, exacerbating what now appears to be a runaway greenhouse effect.

• The ten warmest years between 1880 and 2008 are: 2005, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2004, 2001, 2008 and 1997.

• Developing countries will account for the majority of the growth in total volume of carbon-dioxide emissions related to fossil fuels from 2008 through 2030.

• Emissions to be lower in 2030 than today only in Europe and Japan, where population is now approaching or already in decline

• Global emissions of black carbon are rising fast, and Chinese emissions may have doubled since 2000.

• From 1850 to 2002, countries we now call developed accounted for an estimated 76 per cent of cumulative carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel combustion, while the countries we now call developing accounted for an estimated 24 per cent.

• Boosted by growing populations and rising affluence, the sum total of all developing countries’ emissions began exceeding the totals of all those of developed countries in 2005 and now make up 54 per cent of the total.

• In 2007, China is believed to have overtaken the United States in total carbon-dioxide emissions resulting from fossil-fuel combustion.

Some of the climate change risks according to the report The State of World Population 2009 (UNFPA) are:

• The average global temperature could rise by as much as 6.4 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.24

• As much as 30 per cent of plant and animal species could become extinct if the global temperature increase exceeds 2.5 degrees Celsius.

• One-third of the reef-building corals around the world could become extinct because of warming and acidifying waters.

• Global average sea levels could rise by as much as 43 centimetres by the end of this century.

• Arctic ice could disappear altogether during the summer by the second half of this century.

• One in six countries could face food shortages each year because of severe droughts.

• By 2075, between 3 billion and 7 billion people could face chronic water shortages.

Boserupian theory and role of population

Ester Boserup in The Conditions of Agricultural Growth: the Economics of Agrarian Change under Population Pressures, published in 1965, finds that population density compelled societies to invent new technologies in order to increase food production. She traces how agriculture moved from slash-and-burn to intensive farming with additional labour inputs. Instead of believing that agricultural methods and technology determine population, she shows that population (density) determines agricultural methods.

According to BA Datoo (1978), Boserup’s argument is an antithesis of Malthus, and that is why she regards population growth as the independent variable and agricultural change as the dependent variable. In Boserup’s view, agricultural technology is not autonomous and food production is not inherently inelastic. A certain critical level of population density is required for the emergence of social hierarchy and for feudal organization of investment in land. According to Robert C Hunt (2000), Boserup used intensification to refer to changes in fallow from long-fallow to short-fallow to annual cropping to multiple cropping.

In her article The Impact of Population Growth on Agricultural Output, Ester Boserup (1975) writes that the type of agricultural system found in a developing country is determined on the basis of how historically adaptations in agrarian techniques and methods took place in the backdrop of varying degree of population pressure. She argues that in areas with low man-to-land ratio, there exist large tracts of fallow, pasture and forest land. Overtime when the local population starts growing, more and more of this fallow, pasture and forest land is brought under cultivation. In the case of primitive (or traditional) agriculture, the only investment done to improve land conditions is by employing additional labour in the clearing of land, in the leveling and terracing of land, in supplying water to the fields etc. In periods of rapid population growth, more and more of direct labour inputs is used.

She then asks that if constraint on output growth set by the supply of arable land and capital can be solved by additional labour employment, how can there be existence of un and under-employment. She finds that it is only during slack/ lean seasons, one finds un and under-employment. During the peak seasons, it is the availability of labour supply that determines the upper limit to the area that can be sown, planted and harvested with traditional technology. It is due to this factor that there exists little or no incentive to invest so as to expand the area. However, during periods of high population growth, the supply of peak-time labour rises, which provides incentive to expand area under cultivation. Shortening or elimination of fallow as well as the extent of multi-cropping to be introduced in densely population areas are limited by the available supply of labour for peak season operations. It is due to shortage of labour during peak time that wages go up. Many who are employed in the non-agricultural activities are drawn back to agriculture during peak-time.

Fodder shortage emerges when more and more fallow, pasture and forest land is brought under cultivation hitherto used for grazing. Human consumption then move towards vegetable food and more vegetable and other cereals are grown to be used as animal fodder. In the coming decades, industry would be producing fodder, she conjectures. There is little incentive in producing surplus in areas lacking infrastructure. The rate of rural-urban migration will rise if urban sector provides livelihood opportunities and better urban real wages. However, agricultural surplus might decline as a consequence of migration.

Modern inputs like chemical fertilizer, insecticides, improved seeds, tractors, modern irrigation equipment etc. can be applied in agriculture (modern and not traditional) in areas which have better infrastructure. With the availability of modern inputs, expansion of agricultural output is no longer constrained by the supply of labour available during the peak season as in the case of traditional agriculture. However, usage of modern inputs would be profitable if the price ratio at the village level between modern inputs and marketable agricultural products is low enough.

Boserup (1975) points out that increased labour unrest and demand for land redistribution (due to inequality in land distribution and proletarization of the small peasants) may cause temporary setbacks to output growth due to civil strife, less investment in their land by owners of larger landholdings as they fear of expropriation and lower increase in output during the period when redistribution is carried out.

While commenting on the fear of food scarcity and famines that arose during the early 1970s, Ester Boserup (1979) in her review of The World Conference of 1976-World Food and Nutrition Study: The Potential Contribution of Research is critical of the way National Research Council had been thinking of increasing food production i.e. by increasing crop yields via extensive use of industrial and scientific inputs. In her view, since agricultural production in the developing countries is based on human and animal muscle power, so there is enough scope of using additional labour for more intensive cropping by moving from long-fallow systems to shorter fallow or without fallow, converting to multi-cropping instead of mono-cropping and shifting to intensive fodder production instead of pasturing. She proposes for more investment in rural infrastructure.

She finds that availability of easy food aid and low food prices in the international market owing to surplus food production in the big exporting countries (like the US, Canada and Australia) left little room for expenditure on rural infrastructure by the developing countries during the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the developing countries saw lower growth in agricultural output since they relied on cheaper imports from the developed countries so as to meet the demand of the urban consumers. Such a policy acted as disincentive for the domestic producers of food grains. Between 1968 and 1970, fall in area under wheat production coupled with poor harvests led to depletion of surplus stocks in the early 1970s. The oil exporting countries were hit due to soaring international grain prices, and they cut oil production and oil exports so as to get compensation for the increase in grain prices. The United States gained from the rise in food prices than it lost due to increase in oil prices. Poor countries like India who were dependent on both oil and food imports suffered the most. After the food scarcity catastrophe, the food importing developing countries started promoting their food production and allocated more finances for rural infrastructure.

Boserup (1979) rightly points out that the conflict of interest between the farmers in the US and the governments in the developing countries that are aiming at self-reliance in food production will continue to be an important issue in the world policy. She asks for giving food aid to the developing countries from Africa and South Asia during the times when there is harvest failure so that it doesn’t act as disincentive to domestic production and major famines are avoided.

It is also important to mention here about an interview given to Kim Ives, when former President Bill Clinton and now the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, apologized for forcing Haiti to drop tariffs on imported, subsidized US rice during his time in office. The policy wiped out Haitian rice farming and seriously damaged Haiti’s ability to be self-sufficient (see: http://www.democracynow.org/2010/4/1/clinton_rice).

While explaining the French Physiocratic School that existed two centuries before, Boserup (1983) in her article The Impact of Scarcity and Plenty on Development says that the development of the human societies depended upon the size of agricultural surplus and the Physiocrats saw population increase as a means to increase this surplus. She criticizes Malthus for suggesting that population growth would reduce agricultural surplus and cause starvation. She explains about the possible role of technology so as to escape the Malthusian population trap and finds that the Malthusian theory overlooks the impact of population growth on technological change. Unlike the negative effects of diminishing returns due to rise in population, it may happen that there is motivation for the introduction of more intensive systems in order to raise land productivity. Collective investment in physical and human infrastructure is possible with a larger population.

Boserup (1983) says that long fallow systems existed in early food producing communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America when population density was low. However, with rise in population, it becomes essential to shorten the fallow period so as to produce more. Fallowing helps in preserving land fertility, reducing weeds and plant diseases and protecting against erosion. Long-term growth of population was sustained via more land-use and more intensive cultivation.

According to BA Datoo’s (1978) review article Toward a Reformulation of Boserup’s Theory of Agricultural Change, Boserupian theory finds that change in the fallow system triggered off a whole series of technological changes. With the intensification of agriculture, vegetation becomes more grassy and the land demands more thorough preparation, due to which the digging stick is replaced by the hoe which in turn is replaced by the plough. The method of fertilization changes from ash fertilization (by burning of natural vegetation) to use of animal manure and then to use of artificial fertilizers, when the length of fallowing is reduced.

Ester Boserup’s work show the important role women played in agrarian economy of Sub-Saharan Africa. She challenges the conventional wisdom that women are less productive and not entitled to a share of scarce development resources. In the traditional economies, women contribute more or less equally to the family incomes. It was Boserup who defined and differentiated female farming systems (shifting cultivation of Africa and food production) and male farming systems (settled, plow-based cultivation of Asia and private land tenure), reveals Beneria and Sen (1981). She found that lack of access to education and skills make the women in developing countries unable to find gainful employment in the modern sectors of the economy, informs Kamla Nath (1970).


It is essential to have a glimpse of the official documents of the United Nations and its bodies so as to understand the ideology/ mindset behind population control. A simple and straight reading of the opening paragraph of one UN policy brief (see below) will make us believe that population growth indeed leads to poverty.

“Fast population growth, fueled by high fertility, hinders the reduction of poverty and the achievement of other internationally agreed development goals. While fertility has declined throughout the developing world since the 1970s, most of the least developed countries still have total fertility levels above 5 children per woman. Furthermore, universal access to reproductive health, one of the key goals of the Programme of Action adopted by the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994 and reaffirmed by the World Summit in 2005, is still far from being achieved and unmet need for family planning in the least developed countries remains high. Thus, particularly in the least developed countries, satisfying the unmet demand for modern family planning methods would reduce fertility, moderate population growth and have several beneficial effects on maternal and child health that would contribute to the achievement of other key Millennium Development Goals.”

Source: What would it take to accelerate fertility decline in the least developed countries?, UN Population Division Policy Brief, No. 2009/1, March 2009,

In a report prepared by the World Population Reference Bureau (http://www.prb.org/), it has been found that within a span of 12 years, population of the world increased by 1 billion. The report says that in the next two years, the world's youth population (in the age group 15-24 years) will get more concentrated in Africa and Asia. This is likely to cause pressures on domestic governments for employment generation. Despite fertility rates going down in many nations, there has been a rapid growth in world population. According to the 2009 datasheet generated by the World Population Reference Bureau, it took merely 12 years for the global population to increase from 5 billion to 6 billion. Forecasts show that global population numbers are on track to reach 7 billion in 2011, just 12 years after reaching 6 billion in 1999.

The Report of the Secretary-General titled Programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 2009: Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs mentions about the World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision. The World Population Prospects show that the world population is likely to increase from the current 6.8 billion to 7 billion by early 2012, and is projected to surpass 9 billion by 2050. The projected increase by 2050, amounting to almost 2.3 billion, is almost equivalent to the world population in 1950 and will be absorbed mostly by the less developed regions, whose population is projected to rise from 5.6 billion in 2009 to 7.9 billion in 2050. In contrast, the population of the more developed regions is expected to remain largely unchanged at 1.2 billion and would have declined were it not for the projected net migration from developing countries, which is expected to average 2.4 million persons per year after 2010.

The Report of the Secretary-General informs that in the year 2007, 63 per cent of women of reproductive age who were married or in union were contraceptive users. Contraceptive prevalence ranged from 3 per cent in Chad to 88 per cent in Norway, and was higher in the more developed regions (70 per cent) than in the less developed regions (62 per cent). Contraceptive prevalence remained low in sub-Saharan Africa, at 21 per cent, and unmet need for contraception was particularly high in that region, with half of the 42 countries with data reporting that between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 who were married or in union had an unmet need for contraception. At the international level, the most common contraceptive method is female sterilization, used by 20 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 who are married or in union, followed by the intrauterine device (IUD), used by 14 per cent, and the birth control pill, used by 9 per cent. The ranking of contraceptive methods varies considerably across countries and regions.

The Report of the Secretary-General reveals that global fertility declined from 4.7 children per woman in the early 1970s to 2.6 children per woman in the period 2005-2010. Most of this decline is attributable to falling fertility, from 5.6 to 2.5 children per woman, in the group of developing countries that excludes the least developed countries. In the least developed countries, average fertility remains high at 4.4 children per woman in the period 2005-2010, and 31 of the 49 least developed countries still have fertility levels of 5.0 children per woman or higher.

Indeed after going through all these facts, one can hardly differ to say that controlling population would be beneficial to many of the developing countries and this is possible by increased adoption to family planning methods and more usage of contraceptives. In none of the documents of the United Nations on population policy we however come to hear how technology and increased educational expenditure will help in creation of human capital that may pave the way to development. Population is often seen as a burden and not an asset.

In a brilliantly crafted essay titled The Ideology of ‘Over-Population’, Utsa Patnaik (1996) shows that despite having a significantly smaller population vis-à-vis India and China, developed countries such as the United States consume several times more. Per capita commercial energy consumption in the US is several times more as compared to India and China. Despite all these facts, it has always been argued as if overpopulation in the developing countries can make things worse. Effective demand in India is lower as compared to the United States despite India having a larger chunk in the total world population. It is probably the case that effective demand coupled with consumerism prevailing in the North has contributed more to climate change in the recent times.

The UN Commission on Sustainable Development (May, 2010) notes that with the Earth’s current population of 6.75 billion, consumption and production volumes are expected to continue to rise with demographic growth, severely straining ecosystems. The commission, however, adds that over 60 per cent of the ecosystem services are being degraded or unsustainably used. The high rate of resource consumption has not been evenly shared, with 20 per cent of the population in the highest income countries accounting for 77 per cent of total consumption in 2005, while the poorest 20 per cent used only 1.3 per cent.


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