From her body to the country’s population
To what extent is the difficulty of governing India worsened by the oversize dimensions of India’s population? Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech has really lit the fire under this conversation. However, there is no cause for alarmism. The country’s total fertility rate is already close to the replacement rate of 2.1. Unfortunately states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar really lag far behind with TFR of 3.0 and 3.2 respectively. Such states would benefit from targeted interventions.
The role of women’s education must be kept at the heart of such interventions. Data from across India and indeed the world shows that a woman is likely to bear fewer children as she gains higher educational levels. This in turn translates into improved health of both the mother and the child. Prospects of the child getting even higher education levels also improve. This is not just a correlation but a causal relationship. This is a virtuous circle.
What needs underlining is that its bedrock is suasion not coercion. Indeed, strong-arm tactics would be counterproductive. They would summon trenchantly hostile cultural barriers. Women would switch from being stakeholders to being antagonists. Their agency would get also get reduced as community interest in their bodies gets steeled up and fortified.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.