India has ousted China to emerge as the most populous country on earth, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The report, titled World Population Report 2023, states that India's population stands at 1.4286 billion, while China's population reached 1.4257 billion. India's population exceeded China by 2.9 million (29 lakh). China had held the position of the world's most populous country for decades.
The UNFPA report reveals that the world population has now exceeded 8 billion, with approximately one-fifth of humanity residing in India. India is the seventh largest country globally, encompassing an area of around 32 million sq km. At the time of independence, India's population was 340 million, and it has since added a population of 1 billion post-independence. India reached the milestone of 1 billion on May 12th, 2000.
In contrast, China's population growth has plateaued after decades of increasing numbers, as reported in January. In 2022, there were only 6.77 births per 1,000 individuals in China. China was able to achieve this milestone by implementing the one-child policy in 1980, which remained inflexible until 2015.
India’s population: Low fertility rates augurs hope and concerns
According to the National Family Health Survey released in 2022, India's fertility rate has slowed to 2.0 in 2019-21 from 2.2 in 2015-16, indicating significant progress in population control measures. This trend could lead to a decrease in population in the long term, as it is below the threshold of 2.1 TFR of replacement level fertility, the rate required by the population to replace itself.
While some people consider increasing population as an asset since it adds to the workforce, others attribute it to the exacerbation of the climate change scenario, which poses a threat to the survival of humankind.
Indian Government Initiative to control population
Mission Parivar Vikas: The Government has launched Mission Parivar Vikas in 2017 for increasing access to contraceptives and family planning services in 146 high fertility districts with TFR of 3 and above in seven states.
National Family Planning Indemnity Scheme (NFPIS):
This scheme was launched in the year 2005, this scheme insures the clients in the eventualities of death, complication and failure following sterilization.
UN emphasises on the reproductive rights of the women
Allaying concerns about the spiraling population, Natalia Kanem, the Executive Director at UNFPA, said, "Rather than fixating on the impact of the world's soaring population, the world should focus on women's reproductive rights to shore up 'demographic resilience'."
Emphasizing the reproductive rights of women, she added, "44 percent, almost half of women, are unable to exercise bodily autonomy – unable to make choices about contraception, healthcare, and whether or with whom to have sex. And globally, nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended."
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is a UN agency focused on improving sexual and reproductive health services, promoting gender equality, and empowering women and girls worldwide. Established in 1969, UNFPA is headquartered in New York City and operates in more than 150 countries, providing technical assistance, funding, and support to governments, civil society organizations, and other partners.
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