Supervised by: Jorich Johann Loubser BCom (UCT), BCom Hons (UCT), MSc (LSE), MSc (Oxon). Jorich is about to start his PhD in International Development at the London School of Economics. His research investigates the diverse political economy of state-capital relations in Africa over the last twenty years. He has experience in a wide field of academic research environments, ranging from rodent control in South Africa’s townships to chokka squid fishing.
Over the last century, the global population has grown exponentially. This is predominantly due to the great strides made in medicine and agriculture. The 17th and 18th centuries, specifically, marked a turning point in population growth. More efficient agriculture, stemming from the discovery of new farming methods, provided enough food for all to grow and prosper. This, along with excellent progress in medicine during the 20th century, has caused the global population to increase sevenfold since 1800. India, being the second most populous country in the world, benefits from an immense labour force, but also suffers the consequences of being such a large country; widespread poverty, inadequate healthcare, and lack of housing are among the challenges it faces.
This paper will attempt to summarise the challenges and opportunities presented by India’s growing population. Firstly, there will be a review of the numerous population control policies elsewhere and their equally numerous implications for India. Secondly, there will be a study of the different components of India’s domestic context. These include India’s history, geography, and the capacity of their economy and government. Next, the opportunities and challenges that arise from each of India’s sectors will be investigated. Finally, there will be an analysis of India’s domestic politics and how different social classes might shape policies.
Comparative experience and evidence
Comparing the experiences of other countries is perhaps the most effective way to identify and resolve large-scale issues. In the case of India and their current population concerns, this means investigating the methods used by other countries—notably China and Singapore—to manage such a situation, and deciding whether or not they were effective. In the past, there have been two main aspects of population control policy. The first, being the most prominent, is simply regulating fertility rates and population growth with the objective of reducing the overall population. The second is predicting the way in which the population will evolve over time and making political and economic modifications based on these predictions. In either case, demographics are an essential source of data when making predictions about a population. In China and Singapore specifically, their attempts to minimise population growth were somewhat successful.
China is well-known for its infamous one-child policy; however, there have been many other features to their population policies. In the early 1970s, China’s national population was approaching one billion and the TFR (total fertility rate) was around four. At this time, the Chinese government started advocating for smaller families and, consequently, within the decade, the fertility rate reduced to 2.9. In order to further decrease it, the government established a one child limit in 1980. Although it wasn’t a strict law, the Chinese government utilized a ‘carrot and stick’ approach in order to enforce the policy. The ‘carrot’, or incentives, included more generous pensions and better hospital treatment for those with one child, while the ‘stick’, orpenalties, included fines and confiscation of property. In addition, China put more financial effort into developing and supplying contraceptives. In fact, by 2005, 87% of all married women had used contraceptive devices.
Source: NEJM (2005, 1171)
So, were these policies effective? They were to some extent. They significantly reduced both the rates of population growth and fertility. By the year 2000, the fertility rate had dropped sufficiently below replacement levels, to circa 1.7. At that time, the population was around 1.27 billion—merely 70 million more than their target. According to Chinese authorities, the program prevented almost 300 million births. Therefore, in terms of population control, the policy was effective.
However, there were some very damaging repercussions to this process. Firstly, the gender ratio (proportion of males to females) skewed dramatically. In 1977, the gender ratio was 1.06, which was similar to that of many other industrialised countries, yet within 20 years, it rose to 1.17, and reached a staggering 1.3 in some rural areas of the nation. One can infer that the reason behind this is that families who were only authorised to have one child performed sex selective abortions. This gender gap caused an increase in mental health issues among men and has also been linked to an increased in female trafficking. Additionally, lower fertility rates and higher life expectancies caused the median age of China’s population to increase. The percentage of people above the age of 65 was around 5% in 1982, but had risen to 7.5% by 2005. Despite the fact that other countries, such as Japan, had a higher percentage, China did not yet have the means to cover the costs of pensions. Overall, the disadvantages outweighed the advantages. As of now, China has relaxed the policy and many officials are considering initiating a ‘baby boom’ in an attempt to rectify these issues.
Being one of the most densely populated countries in the world, Singapore also struggled with population growth, yet their experience seems to have been more successful than China’s. Since the 1950s, Singapore had seen great economic improvements as the country started urbanising. As a result, the nation was already shifting towards smaller families before any policies were put in place. Between 1957 and 1966, the country’s fertility rate dropped from more than 6, to around 5, indicating that their population issue was already being resolved. In the late 1960s, Singapore put in place its first policies. Singapore’s ‘carrot and stick’ approach to enforcing these policies was similar to China’s, in that the government used incentives and disincentives. They also greatly increased access to contraceptive devices and legalised abortion and sterilization in 1970. In fact, the government made surgical sterilization available and accessible to the point where one could receive treatment for only 5 SGD (Singapore Dollars). In 1986, the TFR reached an all time low of 1.4. While it lasted, population control in Singapore was considered to be successful. Although there were repercussions, such as an ageing population, they were to a lesser extent than in China. Nevertheless, in 1987, Singapore introduced its first pro-natalist policies in order to make up for the low TFR.
Source: Journal of Population and Social Security (645)
China, along with their policies, also made economic and political adjustments in order to cope with long-term population issues that couldn’t be modified. For instance, a dramatic population increase in China during the 1960s meant a larger labour force in future generations. Through demographics, China was able to anticipate their future circumstances and, therefore, make plans for education and housing. With a rising population, it follows that the quality of education would decrease in an effort to provide education for all; nonetheless, China has made huge strides in this area and the situation never grew too out of control.
As stated previously, Singapore wasn’t as greatly affected by the possible consequences of regulating fertility. One of the root causes behind this was the amount of people from abroad who immigrated into the country. In the mid-1980s, the nation was in desperate need of external support in order to compensate for the shortage of workers, which led Singapore to loosen their immigration policies, allowing non-nationals to become permanent residents. Within 30 years, the number of non-residents in Singapore went from around 60,000 to more than 800,000. By altering their economic circumstances, Singapore was able to avert an imminent crisis.
Evidently, the methods used in Singapore and China may not benefit India in the same way, but one aspect of population policy that seems to work effectively in many different nations is the distribution of contraceptive devices. Additionally, perhaps a more progressive change in fertility rate would prevent the reverberations experienced in both China and Singapore. In any case, a deeper study of India’s economic background would be needed so as to assess the efficacy of different possible population policies. However, India does not necessarily need to make new policies. A common theme throughout recent human history is that as countries start to urbanize, birthrates naturally decrease. Even before policies were introduced in Singapore and China, fertility rates were declining. All things considered, India could go in a number of different directions, but harsh laws might not be the ideal option.
In order to set a clear path for the future, a study of the past would be essential in figuring out what has worked and what hasn’t.
As previously mentioned, understanding past events is crucial in formulating future economic and social policies, in order to solve the country’s challenges. The Indian subcontinent, simultaneously blessed and burdened by its resources, became the crown jewel of the British Empire for almost 90 years, but the scars of their reign will be felt for much longer.
The formation of the British Raj gained its roots from the British East India Company’s sole economic interests, creating a preview of Britain’s rule over the region. The British East India Company, formed for trade in the Indian Ocean region, first docked at the city of Surat in Western India sometime during 1608. This city, as well as the Indian subcontinent, was already inhabited by the Mughal Empire. At first, the empire remained on good terms with the British East India Company, even granting them a commercial treaty in 1612 that gave the Company exclusive access to develop factories in parts of India. In a letter from the Mughal Emperor, Nuruddin Salim Jahangir, to King James I, he expressed that “all the merchants of the English nation as the subjects of my friend; that in what place soever they choose to live, they may have free liberty without any restrain” (5). While the Mughal Emperor was granting even more privileges to England, King Charles II granted the British East India Company the right to acquire territory in 1670, sparking the start of their expansion into India. During the 18th century, the British East India Company found it profitable to sell opium to the Chinese in exchange for porcelain, tea, silk and other commodities. The British East India Company needed land and labor to be able to trade over a thousand tons of opium a year with China, and the best place for that was India, specifically Bengal. So much labor was needed that by the end of the 19th century, over ten million Indians were impacted by the opium trade. Many of the farmers who moved to Bengal were unable to afford the rent and cultivation of the crops, forcing many into huge debts (6). Excluding a few minor incidents, everything was stable for the British Company in India at this point; however, that stability abruptly ended with the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
The sepoys were angry at their treatment and the treatment of Indians under the rule of the British East India Company. They were forced into foreign service, and Indian civilians were taxed and divided along economic lines, similar to those seen in England (7). In an effort to quell this rebellion, the British employed underhand tactics, such as using tallow to grease the sepoy’s ammo cartridges, many of which were Hindu (8). The culmination of many sepoy revolts and civil uprisings throughout much of central India started to threaten the power of the vastly outnumbered British. Despite these efforts, the British East India Company was soon able to disband the rebels—but not without the British Crown taking notice. The British government swiftly established the Government of India Act 1858, placing the Indian subcontinent under direct control of the Crown, marking the end of the British East India Company in India and the start of the British Raj.
The onset of the British Raj changed little for the civilians living in the colony, besides the name of their ruler. Carrying on the legacy of the British East India Company and their economic interests in the region, Britain established free trade with the Raj. This, coupled with industrialized Britain being able to produce textiles cheaper and more quickly than their subject, rapidly reduced India’s share of textile production from 50% to 25%. Almost 50% of all Dutch textiles were from parts of India, and 95% of Britain’s imports from Asia were from India (9). This excessive production of cotton and opium was one likely cause of the famines that struck India in 1876. The catalyst for the Great Famine of 1876 may have been a drought, but cash crop production and grain exports from the Deccan Plateau created additional distress for almost sixty million people (10). The grain and textile industries were far from the only thing the British twisted to their advantage.
Railroads, the sole way to transport goods in colonial India, were built off the backs of Indian labor, while Europeans were hired for intellectual work. Upon completion of these railways, little benefit was given to the native Indians (9). The railroads often went from city to port, or mine to port. An Indian railway map from 1870 shows that every railroad built connected to a port city in one way or another.
Source: A Historical Perspective from Indian Railways (11)
These rail lines are physical embodiments of Britain’s colonial rule—getting valuables and getting them back out were arguably the Raj’s primary goals. These practices continued for many decades—but not forever.
Throughout the early 20th century, the constant uprisings, both peaceful and armed, began to stretch the British government thin. The onset of the First World War further sparked the desire for independence in India, as many citizens were dragged into a war they did not support. However, the British would not bear the brunt of this discontent until World War II. Gandhi’s “Quit India Movement” began in 1942, calling for the British to finally exit India. While there were many calls for this in the past, the Quit India Movement was on a national scale, unlike those that came before. Britain became more and more exhausted with the effort of dealing with India and finally, after decades of rule, India gained its independence on 15 August 1947. The British may have been expelled from the subcontinent, but the lasting effects of their rule remain.
The constant removal of resources and reallocation of land towards cash crops created instability in post-colonial India. The British moved around ethnic groups to create division during their reign, allowing the outnumbered British to remain in power (9). Once they left the subcontinent, the various ethnic groups fought vicious skirmishes between each other. However, the only solution—the partition of India into the Republic of India and the Republic of Pakistan—created a refugee crisis for over ten million people. Families were killed and industries upturned to amend the suffering that the British inflicted. Yet, even a partition was unable to quell the most violent of individuals.
Gandhi was shot in 1948 by a nationalist who believed that he was being too soft on the Muslims in India and Pakistan. Additionally, millions of Hindus were evacuated from Pakistan because of religious violence against them. It was not until both Pakistan and India signed an agreement to protect religious and ethnic minorities that the violence subsided. Additionally, the indebted families had to continue to pay off their debts by farming the land of wealthier aristocrats. Some families employed their children to work as well, denying them access to education and further perpetuating the issue of class division, within and apart from varying ethnic groups. While some aspects of economic disparity and ethnic division have slowly been solved over the course of decades, the incalculable opportunity cost of British rule in India continues to affect the current economic, political, and social climate within the country.
English colonialism in India was primarily based on the exploitation of the area’s natural resources by the metropolitan country. It has been, by and large, perceived that the frontier government intentionally and purposely took on arrangements that affected the economy of India. The question arises: for what reason did the Indian advertisers of present-day industry, during the principal period of industrialization at any rate, mimic their English partners in the area of innovation?
The issue of innovation decisions will be resolved, along with what colonialism meant future innovation, at different phases of India’s modern history. The textile industry was quite difficult for Indian businesses during the main phase of the nation’s industrialization. Overcoming unlikely odds—an uninterested and in some cases even threatening government, insufficient work supply, and very little involvement in setting up or overseeing current modern endeavors—the Indians fostered an industry that was on par with those in Manchester, which had never considered the possibility of rising competition from a former colony. While the administration, design and ownership of the Indian textile plants did not look at all similar to those of British organizations, the manufacturing framework was a precise imitation of Manchester’s. The innovative turning and weaving machinery was similar to those used by the British textile companies.
Feelings on public health have contrasted broadly in this field, from claims that general wellbeing thrived uniquely under the British, to claims that progressive British organizations looked to secure the strength of provincial territories and control its subjects through ‘public health’ initiatives. Mid 19th century Calcutta saw the first major sanitary reforms, both in urban preparation and in the making of hospitals and clinics. It was home to the first school of Western medicine, and saw the early blooming of the Indian medical profession.
Work on public health in British India has often viewed the country in isolation, overlooking the way that the most significant colonial interventions happened in light of external pressures. As a general rule, the pressure came in the form of quarantines and different limitations on Indian shipping. Isolations in the Red Sea, the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean colonial trade, interrupted mail, and caused an incredible burden, whether for Europeans on leave or pilgrims on the Haj. These hardships struck at the core of the colonial government. To keep disorder to a minimum, the Government of India had to go along, usually reluctantly, with global requests to regulate its shipping and to clean up its cities.
The reaction to international pressure, particularly after the Constantinople Sanitary Conference of 1866, created a lot of tension inside the British Empire. The establishment of port health trusts in urban areas, for example Bombay and Calcutta, was one direct consequence of this, as was the whirlwind of activity that came about because of the accidental introduction of plague-infected rats into Bombay in 1896. Partly to console international figures, the Epidemic Diseases Act (1897) was authorized and spending on general wellbeing was generously expanded.
Geography, resource endowment and economic structure
The economic disparities that arose during the British rule are still present and visible nowadays in India’s society. India is the second most populous country in the world, after China. In 2001, the population of India totalled 1.03 billion, accounting for 16.7% of the world’s population (12). In other words, about every sixth person in the world is Indian. The country possesses only 2.42% of the world’s total land area, despite being required to sustain and support such a massive population (12). In fact, only a tiny fraction of India is uninhabited, and more than half of the territory is cultivated (13). This certainly causes a strain both on the country’s land and on its resources. The high population growth rate is one of the major reasons for the high levels of poverty in the region, along with the high levels of illiteracy, poor healthcare facilities and lack of access to financial resources, decreasing the per capita income in India (14).
The geography of India is diverse and mainly characterized by the mountainous Himalayan region in the northern part of the country, the Indo-Gangetic Plain where most of India’s large-scale agriculture takes place and the plateau region in the southern and central portions of the country (15). This peculiar geography results in an uneven population distribution across the territories of India. For example, the Indo-Ganga Plains are more densely populated compared to the mountainous state of Arunachal Pradesh, as are the regions of Kerala and West Bengal compared to the hot and dry deserts of Rajasthan. Indeed, half of all Indians still derive their livelihood directly from agriculture, therefore the maintenance of cultivable soil and water are crucial (13). As a consequence, the desert areas of Rajasthan and of the Terai region can only support a low-density population compared to the more northern plains areas. In other words, India’s topography has a deep influence on population density and its uneven distribution, in turn causing increased inequalities in income, wealth and poor living conditions.
India has been one of the fastest-growing economies in the world since 2000, and has the world’s sixth-largest economy in nominal GDP terms. In 1947, after gaining independence from Britain, India formed a centrally planned economy and introduced an economic roadmap based on a series of five-year plans influenced by the Soviet Model (13). In spite of these plans, steady incremental increases in population, combined with low-yield agricultural productivity, have resulted in low standards of living for much of the population (16). The five year plans were designed to raise the level of living among the Indian people through direct and indirect methods of population control—in particular, increasing investments in heavy industries (16). Some progress was achieved throughout the years in agriculture and rural development, which have regularly created barriers to educational advances.
However, with the collapse of the Soviet system in the 1990s, India adopted a series of free-market reforms and is today considered a mixed economy. Because of this, the country’s economy has grown exponentially, from $288 billion in 1992 to $2.9 trillion in 2019 (17). Agriculture, once India’s main source of revenue and income, has since fallen to approximately 15.96% of the country’s GDP as of 2019, because of the large increase in India’s industrial and service outputs (17). However, even though the country is pushing itself towards a shift to urbanization and progress, data shows that the country barely feeds its own population. In fact, India is home to 270 million hungry people, standing 97th in Oxfam’s Food Availability Index and 103rd in the 2018 Global Hunger Index (18). Agriculture is still the primary source of livelihood for about 58% of India’s population, but it is facing numerous difficulties as agricultural infrastructure has not developed as expected, resulting in uneven distribution and increased hunger among a population which is in a continuous state of growth (19). The reality is that India has a level of agricultural activity that could sustain all its inhabitants, but there is little storage for Indian agricultural products and, in 2019, it was estimated that $14 billion of food is wasted in India every year (17). In particular, high rates of waste have been observed amongst individual, often low-skilled farmers, rather than wealthy multinational corporations. This strictly links the issue to the question raised by domestic politics, later examined in this paper.
Other major businesses present in India involve industrial production. In particular, this includes petrochemicals and the supply of the world’s pharmaceuticals, as well as billions of dollars worth of cars, motorcycles and machinery (17). India’s leading service industries involve telecommunications, IT, and software, which usually employ educated, skilled and English-speaking professionals. Technology is one of the industries able to offer stable employment in India. This underscores the vast inequalities seen in India’s population—in part emphasised by the large population size that characterizes the country. In fact, 20% of the population is homeless and uneducated.
Considering the flourishing technological sector in the country, the forecasts of India’s rapid success in becoming the 6th largest economic country in terms of GDP (20) have increased this past decade; nonetheless, 25% of its population “is still living on less than [US]$1.25 a day.” (21). The high state investment in India has led to a rapid increase in its economy, much more akin to the pattern seen in China than to most Western nations. Western countries rely heavily if not exclusively on private investment, which in turn contributes to a slow but steady growth in their economies (22). So, why are India’s standards of life still relatively low, with a score of just 0.6 on the Human Development Index, ranking them at 131 out of 189 countries on the Index? Moreover, why isn’t the economy able to accomodate a rapid change in population? These questions can be answered with analysis of the opportunities and challenges of its production industry, investments in its sectors and, most importantly, the equilibrium of income distribution and employment ratios.
India has historically been known for its agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Most notably, its leading production and export of tea, cotton, rice, and even fruit. (20) However, in recent decades, the share of GDP of these two sectors has declined and remained static respectively, accounting for approximately 18% of the country’s GDP. This is a significant decrease since 1967, when the sector’s contribution to GDP peaked at 42% (23). According to Pendey, the employed labour force fell from 60% to 52% in this sector, between 2006 and 2007. This decline in both the agricultural and manufacturing sectors is a result of two main factors: the lack of economies of scale within these sectors, and the need for improvements in their infrastructure (24). Most firms in the manufacturing sector remain small to avoid taxes and regulations—this means that they are not able to exploit economies of scale and productivity remains low. Although there has been a rise in employment rate in the manufacturing sector, it “has been in the informal sector where workers are not covered by social security arrangements”, which has increased inequality and lowered productivity (24). It is clear that India needs to focus more on skilled labour rather than unskilled if it is to raise its standard of living. This would mean that workers would be more highly skilled at their jobs and, thus, the manufacturing sector in India would be better able to outcompete other countries such as China and Indonesia (24). So, by better channelling employment into formal jobs in the organized manufacturing sector, such as urban office jobs with a fixed schedule, India could improve productivity and increase wages to an average of 2.5 times higher than is the case with its current focus on informal jobs. This would, ultimately, raise living standards “for a larger share of the population” (24).
In contrast to the manufacturing sector, the service sector in India has recently increased its share of the GDP to 60%. The annual growth rate of India’s GDP has increased “to more than 8 percent in recent years” partially due to this sector (23). It is important to invest in this sector not only because it contributes to the growth of the economy, but also for its ability to increase job creation and skill development, and to potentially increase the living standards across India (25). Unfortunately, the growth of the service sector in India is currently in labour market arbitrage, which is the procurement and use of cheap labour to produce goods or provide services (25). This will likely become detrimental to the country, since transnational corporations often take advantage of national or regional workers and create harsh and harmful working conditions (21). To improve this sector, the population’s needs and rights must be taken into consideration. More specifically, an improvement in educational infrastructure and transportation will be needed to push workers to acquire the skills needed for these jobs. If employment increases in this sector, a sustainable cycle can potentially be created where the economy grows along with general living standards, but this can only happen if the rate of development between the economy and the living standards can accompany the change in population. Programs are currently being created to help workers specialize and train for these jobs. One of these programs is the Skill India Program, which “aims to achieve its target of upskilling 400 million people by 2022” (25).
To improve the service sector and be able to sustain the change in population whilst improving quality of life, investments need to be made, both for the growth of the economy and to improve India’s environmental issues. India is the country that consumes the most energy, since it is one of the countries with the largest populations (26). Unfortunately, “having only 0.4% of the world’s proven oil reserves and no significant discoveries since 1970’s”, coal—India’s primary source of energy—is rapidly running out (26). India needs to procure ways to externally source oil, especially since the poor quality of the coal and of the infrastructure used to process it is worsening the environmental threat that India already faces. This has led India to invest in Africa—more specifically, the Indian oil company, Oil & Natural Gas Corp, has invested in oil refineries in Sudan and oil pipelines in Nigeria (26). Furthermore, India is trying to obtain uranium exploration rights in Africa, which could be used to provide renewable and clean energy options by “fueling its civilian nuclear program” (26). In this sense, international investments could improve other issues in the country, eventually benefitting the working population as a whole.
To conclude, for economic growth to be beneficial for the population, investments need to be made in various sectors. This is both something the government should emphasize, along with providing opportunities for the workers to upskill and find employment in a sector that won’t take advantage of them, and which pays enough for them to sustain both themselves and their families. In order for the country to grow and develop, there mustn’t be a sole focus on the economy but rather a further focus on the population’s needs so that workers can safely do their jobs and contribute to the economy. This would both support and ideally be supported by the government, giving back to the population and building infrastructure, transportation, and improving access to education and training.
India has a rapidly expanding population and the key to taking advantage of such a growing population is by supporting and listening to the people, including the lower classes. All law-abiding citizens of a country need to be given support by the government, regardless of religious beliefs, social/economic status or ethnic background. Therefore, secularism of politics in India is a vital aspect of society.
What is Secularism? Secularism is “a political mode of governance based on two major principles, equal respect and freedom of conscience—and on two operative modes—separation of church and state, and neutrality of the state toward religion” (27). Politicians and Governments have collective responsibility to take care of the whole population. This is important, because there are a lot of issues facing minorities in India, both religious and non-religious.
Prime Minister Modi’s electoral success for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014 was monumental. It was the first single party majority in India since 1984, when Rajiv Gandhi won the election soon after Indira Gandhi was assassinated. That was an unforgettable time in Indian politics—the unification of a country after great turmoil. This shows how substantial the nature of the BJP victory was, especially after they also managed to increase their majority in 2019. The domestic policies throughout the last seven years, and the ones carried out by Prime Minister Modi and the BJP government, should aim to tackle disparity and improve the social-financial motivators for the lower class. But there are many fundamental obstacles that are, unfortunately, causing the lower classes to suffer at this time.
The BJP are the world’s largest party in terms of primary membership and are known to be a right-wing hindu nationalist party. As a result, one concerning element of the BJP, that may undermine their ability to meet the needs of the entire population, is their association with Hindutva. Hindutva is “one of the largest Hindu organisations in the world”, and the predominant form of Hindu nationalism in India (28). As a political ideology, the term Hindutva was articulated by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in 1923. It is championed by the Hindu Nationalist volunteer organisations, collectively called the Sangh Parivar. The Hindutva movement has been described by some as a variant of ”right-wing extremism”, while other analysts have disputed the identification of Hindutva with fascism, suggesting instead that it is an extreme form of conservatism or “ethnic absolutism”.
Another unavoidable concern in the Indian constitution, regarding the rights of minorities, is that some minorities are not defined in the constitution, even though the term “minorities” is used in articles 29 to 30 and 350A to 350B. The effect of this is that these minorities are not clearly acknowledged, which is especially concerning considering they aren’t clearly addressed. Even religious minorities have only been defined in the Indian Constitution relatively recently. Ninong Ering, an Indian politician from the Indian National Congress party, officially said:
“As per clause (c) of section 2 of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, five communities vide Ministry of Welfare notification dated 23rd October, 1993 are declared as minority communities viz Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis)” (29).
However the term ‘Other Backward Class’ is used to represent classes of people that are “educationally or socially disadvantaged”. The Dalits are an example of such a people. They belong to the lowest caste in India, previously characterised as “untouchable”. Even though they represent 220 million people, they do not receive the same representation as other facets of India’s population. It is important that they feel heard and represented if any political party wants to confirm a majority, so, despite this issue, they are acknowledged by politicians; although, this rarely translates into actual representation.
Overall I believe what we must question is to what extent MPs should be responsible. Political neglect can directly affect the lower classes’ ability to find and take advantage of opportunities. For example, this could be in the form of misinformation via a lack of or incorrect political communication with the public. It is also important to consider whether it is political neglect or other types of government failure that led to this massive influx of hindu elitism in Indian politics, which now affects other religious minorities and castes like Hindu Dalits. One must look at whether political negligence towards minorities in India is a contributing factor to the tremendous population growth.
Middle classes of all countries have been considered the thriving catalysts of the global economy over the last century, and they have only continued to contribute to global economic growth into the 21st century, due to their increased consumption. They encourage productive investment and are critical factors in prompting socio-economic development, especially of the kind that helps to cultivate the critical features of a healthy and functioning society. India’s middle class is one of the most arbitrarily defined in the world, with its size and main characteristics constantly being debated, and varying significantly based on filtration and the subjective notions of different researchers.
Before one dives into the role of the middle class, defining the metric of what is considered the middle class is crucial: this class falls in the middle of the social hierarchy, occupying a position between the working and upper classes. According to the World Bank and the OECD, people who live on less than US$2 a day are considered poor; thus, the generally agreed-upon threshold for a middle class earning is US$10-US$100 per day. The growth of india’s middle class has been exponential. Upon becoming independent, the size of the Indian middle class was small: estimates place its size at around 5 million in the 1950s. Over the next two decades, however, an increase of around 6 million people was seen, taking the total to an estimated 11.2 million by 1972. As India began to move into a capitalist market-led economy, the colonial middle class from the time of the British Raj has slowly been transformed into a “new” middle class, who are increasingly defined by their consumerist behaviour. This is because the Indian congress party began to open up markets and implement economic liberalisation programmes in 1991, after an economic downturn in the markets, increasing foreign investments and attracting private capital flows. By the mid-1990s, the middle class had grown to approximately 30 million—still less than one percent of the population, but this number would skyrocket to 5% over the next decade. Between 2004 and 2012, the Indian middle class doubled in size again until, in 2015, it was estimated to sit between 80 and 600 million (Deutsche Bank research).
However, India’s middle class has suffered greatly due to the impacts of COVID-19, having shrunk by 32 million people in 2020. This accounts for a shocking 60% of the people forced out of the mid-income tier globally. As a result, India currently ranks low, at 100th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business list, meaning that entrance to the higher part of the middle class is considered substantially more difficult than it is to slip into the lower half.
Education is globally recognised as one of the most crucial factors that contribute to the size, quality, and productivity of a country’s middle class. India currently has 1.5 million schools, and it is a well-recognized fact that a substantial proportion of the schools in India (not just those in rural areas) are insuffient when it comes to helping children build important skills that could help them move up to the middle class (Statistica.com). This fact is supported by the employability rate provided by the India Skill Report: less than half of Indian graduates are currently classed as employable, and this number has not improved since 2010. Despite a surge to 46.21% in 2020 and 47.38% in 2019, rates dropped again in 2021 to 45.9% of graduates. Looking at these numbers using gender lenses, on average, 64% of all professionals are men, while only 36% of the workforce are women.
One of the reasons for this poor outcome is the insufficient spending on education. While France and Finland’s expenditures on education account for 5.4% and 6.4% of their GDP respectively, the Indian government invests less than 4% of India’s GDP into the education sector (Data worldbank.com). Comparing this to the UK’s investments, in 2018 they invested 6.1% of their annual budget into education: and this resulted in the general unemployment rate evaluated at about 3%. There are of course other factors, that help to uphold such a rate, but a general trend like this is seen globally: the more money invested into education, the better educated an average citizen is, which data suggests may have a positive impact on reducing the national unemployment rate. The poor state of schools in India is aggravated by the disproportionate allocation of funds and resources into higher education. This encourages and fosters the creation of an elite to run the country, but does not helping with the creation of a competitive workforce which would create a far more solid backbone within the middle class. Considering the majority of the middle class are currently either gig economy workers or manual laborers, it’s easy for them to get pushed back into the lower classes. Indian elites have far higher access rates to education and other resources, which not only poses educational problems but also links to other problems, such as inaction which promotes attacks against minorities as noted earlier.
The Indian Education system is divided into two parts: private and government education, with the ratio of 5:7 schools respectively. In both instances, the educational system in India is plagued with multiple problems that include the neglect of Indian languages in the system, a ‘brain drain’ of skilled graduates, and mass illiteracy throughout the country—currently 35% of India’s population are classified as “uneducated”, and its illiterate population is close to 33% of the aggregate illiteracy rate globally. The majority of teaching, particularly in science-based subjects, takes place in English. This means that students who are not knowledgeable in English cannot study science appropriately and, since standard distributions are often not accessible in native Indian dialects, this further limits the extent of possible social mobility throughout India. This directly ties into the astronomical dropout rate in both higher and lower education. The vast majority of students aged 6-14 leave school before finishing their studies, which is only encouraged by the overcrowded state schools that are often left without fundamental facilities such as clean drinking water, study materials, access to qualified teachers, and so forth.
If India is to recover from their class losses as a result of the pandemic, it’s clear that an institutional educational reform is needed from the BJP, as well as a revaluation of investments to not only rebuild the middle class, but make sure it resurfaces as a more solidly placed entity without the same risk of falling back into the lower classes.
Over the past decades the global population has rapidly increased, leaving developing countries to struggle with a lack of resources. Steady growth in population can therefore have an impact on the standards of living in a country, but it can also benefit some parts of the economy. For instance, it creates a larger labor force; however, this positive effect can only be guaranteed if policies are created and enforced by the government to protect its population’s needs. The objective of this research paper was to analyse from different perspectives and different fields the opportunities and challenges of India’s population growth. India’s economy is rapidly growing and plays a large role in international endeavours, but this growth hasn’t yet been felt equally across the country. This is because a large amount of its population still lives in and relies on the agriculture sector, which has become less productive due to the lack of infrastructure and resources. Thus, other sectors need to be further explored in order to improve living standards in the country, and to allow it to rely less on sectors that have begun to stagnate. Yet, to invest in other sectors such as the service sector, more training and education is needed. Therefore, easier access to educational infrastructure and materials is required. Education is the foundation of the middle class and in order for future generations to thrive, the government needs to emphasise education. To conclude, it is important to research and analyse the economy of a developing country, but also to understand and identify the underlying issues that the population might experience even when the economy is succeeding.
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