Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Seven Billionth Baby and its Implications

Devendra Kothari

Prof. Population Program Management

Baby Nargis Yadav, born on October 31, 2011 at the Mall Community Health Centre on the outskirts of the capital city of Uttar Pradesh – Lucknow, was officially declared, in India at least, to be the seven billionth citizen of the world. The status accorded to her is of course symbolic. For, coinciding with Nargis's arrival on earth, many more births were recorded in diverse parts of the World[1] including India. Should we celebrate or fret about the seven billion mark? This post discusses the implications of the milestone and suggests the way forward.

With seven billion people and still growing, the world is getting dangerously overcrowded. At the time of the Lord Buddha, the global population was under 100 million; when Christ was born it was 170 million; when Isaac Newton (1643-1727) discovered the ‘Law of Gravitation’ it was 550 million. The world population reached one billion in 1800.  It took newly 130 years to add the second billion. However, “the world added the sixth billion and the seventh billion in a record 12 years for each,” says Carl Haub, PRB's senior demographer. "The eighth billion may also take about 12 years, but only if birth rates in all developing countries follow projections that assume a smooth decline to two children or fewer."
It appears that the World is in the midst of its most rapid population growth in the history. Today, the world is adding the largest numbers to its population than in any time in history. Despite the fact that the annual population growth rate has declined from 2.1% in the late sixties to 1.2% per year in 2011, world population is currently growing by about 85-90 million annually.  According to the UN's World Population Prospects (2010), future population of the world will mainly be fuelled by some large African and Asian countries.

Most of the countries of the world have already achieved or are in the process of achieving replacement level fertility of 2.1 children per woman required to achieve stable population. For example, in some large countries such as Germany (1.4), Italy (1.4), Japan (1.4), China (1.5), Russia (1.6), Thailand (1.6), and Brazil (1.9), total fertility rates have fallen far below two children.  In some other large developing countries such as Indonesia (2.3), Mexico (2.3), Indonesia (2.3) and Bangladesh (2.4), total fertility is fast approaching to the replacement level. On the other hand, in some large countries of Africa and Asia total fertility rates of more than 2.5 children per woman continue to be the norm. For example, lots of efforts have to be made to achieve replacement level fertility in countries like India (2.6), Egypt (2.9), Philippines (3.2), Pakistan (3.6), Nigeria (5.7), Ethiopia (5.3), Congo (6.1), Niger (7.0), etc.

The emerging population scenario in India is of interest to anyone interested in India’s development, as well as concerned with the global demographic situation. With around 1.2 billion people, India is currently the second most populous nation in the world. The UN Population Division projects that it will surpass China as the most populous within 15 to 20 years. India's population is projected to peak at 1.7 billion in 2060. China at its peak in 2025 will have 1.4 billion people. In fact, when China peaks, India will have already surpassed it in population. Other countries which will contribute significantly in the near future are: Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Philippines, etc.   The estimated population of the ten most populous counties in 2010 and 2050 are given in Table 1.

Table 1 Ten most populous countries of the world in 2010 and 2050

Ten most populous countries in2010

Ten most populous countries in 2050




 (in million)




 (in million)














United States









United States






































Source:  United Nations Population Division.


Are people in poor countries against small family norm? While world’s population continues to grow by around 85-90 million annually, more than 200 million women, mainly from the poor countries lack access to basic contraception. Often, these women must travel far from their communities to reach a health facility, only to return home “empty handed” due to shortages and stock-outs as well as non availability of staff. When women seeking family planning services are turned away, they are unable to protect themselves from unintended/unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS[2].

Relatively high population growth mainly due to unwanted fertility makes it more difficult to lift large numbers of people out of poverty (see my earlier Blog entitled: What the poverty debate in India misses?). Nearly half the world (48 percent) lives in poverty on less than the equivalent of US$2 per day, including 80 percent of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 76 percent in India, 65 percent in Uganda, and 61 percent in Pakistan, as per the World Development Indicators (2011), World Bank.

Now question arises as how to forge ahead? The most important and positive steps are still largely unrecognized by policymakers as well as by the bilateral and philanthropic organizations. “More than two in five pregnancies worldwide are unintended by the women who experience them, and half or more of these pregnancies result in births that spur continued population growth”, noted by Robert Engelman, who authored the highly acclaimed book: More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want.  This means population growth would slow and then end through something women want and need: the capacity to decide for themselves when to become pregnant. If all women had this capacity, survey data affirm, average global childbearing would immediately fall below the replacement fertility value of slightly more than two children per woman. And population would immediately move onto a path leading to a peak followed by a gradual decline, possibly well before 2050[3].

The women centred approach is also advocated by politicians like Richard Ottaway MP, Chairman of the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. He noted[4]: “most of women in developing would want fewer children than they are having now, but the international community has allowed attention to drift away from the family planning. Letting women have the means to manage their childbearing will help to make the world a more stable place. Hence a decisive action is needed now” and it is the need of the hour.  Key to this new approach is empowering women and providing them with more choices through expanded access to education and health services and promoting skill development and employment[5].

What we do in the next few years will determine our future.  Here bilateral agencies like UNFPA and philanthropic organizations like Rotary international cannot afford business as usual.

The next post discusses: what should be next in Rotary International service agenda after Polio Eradication?

[1]A baby girl named Danoca May Camacho was chosen by the United Nations to be one of several children around the world who will symbolically represent the global population milestone. She was delivered just before midnight on Sunday amid an explosion of press camera flashes in a packed government-run hospital in the Philippines at Manila's Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital. In Bangladesh, authorities named another baby girl the world's seven billionth child. Weighing 2.75 kilos and named Oishee, she arrived a minute after midnight at a hospital in the capital Dhaka. In Cambodia, the honor fell to a baby girl who has yet to be named.

[2] “Empty Handed: Responding to the Demand for Contraceptives”, a documentary by Population Action International, Washington DC    tells the story of women’s lack of access to reproductive health supplies in sub-Saharan Africa, and its impact on their lives.

[3] See article: Seven Billion Problem: What Women Want   by Robert Engelman, Tomes of India, October 31, 2011. Also see: Kothari, Devendra. 2010.  “Empowering Women in India through better Reproductive Healthcare”, FPA Working Paper No 5, Jaipur: Forum for Population Action.
[4] See letter to the Editor: The Economist (June 4th-10th, 2011) by Richard Ottaway, p.18.
[5] For details, see: Kothari Devendra, “Empowering Women in India through Better Reproductive Healthcare”, FPA Working Paper No 5, Jaipur: Forum for Population Action, 2010.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

India’s quest for smaller states

Devendra Kothari
Professor, Population Program Management

The raging controversy over carving out a new State - Telengana -  out of Andhra Pradesh has once again thrown open the debate - whether smaller States are better. Much of the new demands are a result of uneven growth within existing super States and a perception that splitting super States into smaller ones will improve administration and governance by bringing power centres closer to the people. Are smaller States the answer in India? And this post aims in this direction. 

The provisional results of the Census of India 2011 indicates that  most populous State in the country continues to be Uttar Pradesh  with a population of 199,581,477 and the least populous State is Sikkim with a population of 607,688. The union territory of Lakshadweep, with a population of just 64,429, is the tiniest part of the country - all thirty five States (28) and Union Territories (7) put together.  The census data also indicate that slightly more than 34% of India’s population was enumerated in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Maharashtra and Bihar alone. Next seven States namely West Bengal (WB), Andhra Pradesh (AP), Tamil Nadu (TN), Madhya Pradesh (MP), Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat accounted for more than 43% percent of the total population. In other words, more than three fourths of the country’s population in 2011 was enumerated in just 10 States (Table 1) and the remaining 25 States and Union Territories recorded less than one fourth of its population.

Table 1 Ten most populous states of India




Total population

(In million)

% Share in total population

Projected population

(In million)

% Share in total population

Uttar Pradesh 















West Bengal 





Andhra Pradesh





Tamil Nadu 





Madhya Pradesh 




















Sub total





India Total





Source: Census of India 2011, Provisional Population Totals; Projected figures from: The Future Population of India, Population Foundation of India and Population Reference Bureau, New Delhi.

If some of India’s larger States were independent countries they would be quite high up the list of the larger nations in the world.  For example, Uttar Pradesh with a population of 200 million is much bigger than Brazil (193 million); if UP were to be a separate country only China, India (minus UP), USA and Indonesia would be bigger than it. Maharashtra (112 million) is slightly bigger than Mexico (111m), the eleventh most populous country in the world, whereas Bihar (104 million) is bigger than Philippines (94m) and Israel (8m) put together. West Bengal (91 million) is bigger than Vietnam (90m) and Andhra Pradesh with 85 million has three million more people than Germany. MP (73m) is slightly less than Turkey, which has 74 million, while Tamil Nadu  (72m), Rajasthan (69m), Karnataka (61m)  and Gujarat  (60m) are each bigger than all the seven  countries in Southern Africa including South Africa put together.

Arunachal Pradesh (1.4m), Goa (1.5m), Manipur (2.7m), Nagaland (2m) and Meghalaya (3m) are some of the smaller States. In the mid range we have Punjab (27.7m), Haryana (25.4m), Kerala (33.4m) and Orissa (41.9m). The new States of  Chattisgarh (25.5m), Jharkhand (33.0m), and Uttaranchal (10.1m) can also be categorized as mid sized.  Then we have some really tiny Union Territories like Pondicherry (1.2 m), Chandigarh (1.1m), Andaman & Nicobar Islands (0.4m), Dadra & Nagar Haveli (0.3m), and Daman & Diu (0.2m).

It appears that there does not seem to be any one criterion for dividing India in such an unequal way. If language was the criterion, as argued by the first State Reorganization Commission in the early fifties, then UP, Bihar, MP and Rajasthan should have been one state. If agro-climatic conditions were the criterion than many of the larger states like Bihar, MP, Rajasthan, UP, AP, and even Karnataka and TN have more than one State in each of them.

The truth is that States in India were formed on no real and common basis, as argued by Mohan Guruswamy[1]. There are different reasons applicable for different States. The northeastern States were formed to suit certain tribal aspirations. Goa had its own historical antecedents. Punjab was formed to accommodate the religious sentiments of the Sikhs with the Punjabi language serving as a convenient fig leaf for it. UP and MP were formed for another reason (that is political), which hardly makes any sense. The four southern States were formed for linguistic reasons, just as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa and West Bengal were. But now there is demand for separate states among these States. The Government of India has 10 applications for the creation of new States including a separate Vidharba in Maharashtra, Telengana in Andhra Pradesh, Saurashtra in Gujarat, Mithilanchal in Bihar, Bhojpur in Bihar and UP, Harit Pradesh and Bundelkhand in UP and Coorg in Karnataka, and  Gorkhaland and Cooch Behar in West Bengal, etc.  It means dividing country alone on the linguistic lines in 1956 was not a valid reason.

Also there are many other aspirants who have not yet filed applications, but are surely watching the developments on Telangana very closely. Bodoland (Assam), Kosal (Orissa), Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir), Vindhya Pradesh (Madhya Pradesh), Maru Pradesh (Rajasthan) are just a few examples. Chief Minister Mayawati’s call to divide Uttar Pradesh, with its 75 districts, into four parts appears to be a sensible decision. As per the blueprint, the eastern part of the State with 32 districts will form a new State of Poorvanchal, the 22 western districts will be grouped together as Harit Pradesh, Bundalkhand in south will take seven districts while the remaining 14 will be in the central Uttar Pradesh, the fourth State.  These statehood movements have once again thrown open the debate - whether “small is beautiful”.  In the opinion of many that existing super administrative units – states - are too large and unwieldy to be governed properly.

Have smaller States in India worked better? Such States of an earlier generation -- Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, for instance - are doing very well. The more recent examples - Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand, which were carved out of bigger entities in November 2000 - have done much better than their parents.

What is the advantage of smaller states? "The logic of creation of small states should be to lead to more efficiency and better governance," according to B. Venkatesh Kumar, a professor at the School of Management and Labor Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). "It also helps in addressing local concerns and giving more autonomy because smaller states are more responsive to local aspirations” But the smaller states first need to be economically viable, he adds[2]. Why opposition to smaller-states? According to Kumar, governments prefer larger-sized States because "it gives them political power, including more political representatives at the state-level, as well as their presence in the federal parliament, and access to economic resources arising out of a large geographical space.  Further, State break-up requires considerable costs for the new governance set-up, including infrastructure investment in the new capital.

Quite clearly we need a smaller government, which means smaller States, fewer departments and more decentralization. What should be criteria of creating smaller States? The State Reorganization Commission in early fifties sought for division of Indian Union into linguistic-based States, which was implemented in the States Reorganization Act of 1956. But in the current political scenario where the concept of inclusive growth becoming inevitable, there seems to be only one viable option: formation of a second State Reorganization Commission that will look into carving out States based on the current geo-political scenario, to accommodate the regional political and ethnical interests of the people. In addition, I feel that population size should be given due recognition in redrawing the map of India.

The population of India is projected to increase from 1210 million in 2011 to 1751 million (scenario B) in 2051, as per Population Reference Bureau[3], that is in the next forty years – an increase by 540 million. As a consequence, the total population of 10 most populous or super-states of India will increase from 927 million to 1366 million (Table 1, column 4). And this fact must be kept in mind while redrawing the map of Indian Union.  As such, division of existing super States is must. For both governance and socio-economic reasons, the total population of to be carved out smaller States should not exceed more than 50 million each with administrative friendly inter-state boundaries not like existing boundaries between Uttar Pradesh (Bundalkhand) and Madhya Pradesh.

The small States versus big States argument is an international issue. In USA, too, there has been a lot of noise though very little action. The last State created by carving out part of another is West Virginia. That was way back in 1863. But practically every State has witnessed split proposals since then. In an article titled, "Divided We Stand", The Wall Street Journal asked: “What would California look like broken in three? Or a Republic of New England?  With the federal government reaching for ever more power, redrawing the map is enticing”, says Paul Starobin.

While India's internal map may not soon start looking like the pre-independence jigsaw puzzle presented by the myriad provinces and kingdoms, the world's largest democracy could add a few more States if it takes its cue from the world's oldest democracy - USA. The 50 States the US has for its population of 300 million is almost double the number of states India has for its 1200 million-plus people. I think that the era of large ungovernable States is past. 

The next post discusses the seven billionth baby and its implications.

[1]  For details, see chapter:  “Small States and Better Government”, in India: Issues in Development by Mohan Guruswamy, Hope India Publications, Gurgoan, 2006. Also see The economics behind demand for smaller states by  Nupur Pavan Bang on her blog.
 [2] For details, see:  Website  - The Truth is Always Insane - United smaller” States of India— A necessity or a delusion.
[3] PFI & PRB. 2007. The Future Population of India, New Delhi: Population Foundation of India and Population Reference Bureau.