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The population challenge looms

It is everyone’s responsibility to restrict the use of water as the population grows

The India Meteorological Department recently predicted the monsoon outlook, stating that some parts of the country may face drought. Newspapers report that people and cattle are suffering on account of lack of water; people are deserting villages and cattle are being slaughtered, farming is being stopped. Even in large towns one can see lengthy queues of people waiting for water. Many of the State governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are doing a lot to alleviate the thirst.

Rivers are the primary sources of water. Those such as the Ganga, the Godavari, the Narmada and the Cauvery flow through multiple States. When rainfall is deficient, rivers gets depleted. Often people claim that the water flowing nearby belongs to them and express unwillingness to share it. States attempt to retain water and consequently the downflow is reduced. Some States even resort to legal action.

The Central and State governments are now taking action to alleviate the suffering of the people. People are conscious of their rights. Their rights are highlighted by social workers, academicians and above all by politicians. But has anyone ever highlighted the people’s responsibility and the individual’s responsibility?

At the point of Partition in 1947, the population of India was said to be 300 million, and today it is something like 1,200 million – that is about 10 million people added every year since Partition! The number of the unemployed is increasing; people suffer for want of sufficient healthcare and other necessities.

What about the question of water? There is a significant shortfall compared to the situation even two decades ago. Governments do take action to save water. However, with the frequent rainfall deficit and the phenomenal increase in the size of the population, making enough water, particularly drinking water, available to the people is becoming difficult.

Is it not everyone’s responsibility therefore to restrict the use of water, be it for personal consumption or for material production? It is indeed the responsibility of every individual to take care of his or her health by means of physical exercise, a healthy diet, adopting simple remedies and so on, reducing personal suffering. Since population growth is worsening the situation of water scarcity, should not action be taken to stem the growth?

China some years ago put down a law fixing a one-child per family norm and stopped assistance to those that had more than one (although recently the country has relaxed the norm). Law or no law, why don’t we restrict the size of our families?

Every married couple can decide to have no more than two children. The government may also think of restricting whatever financial assistance it extends, to families with not more than two children.

So how is this message to be conveyed to the people at large? The problem is not local, not regional, but national. The attention of the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers is needed to launch a campaign to convey the message.

In the States where elections are coming up, well-attended meetings are held not only in big towns but also in villages, and dignitaries address the crowds. This opportunity can be utilised to convey the message to the millions of people to restrict population growth. The media can help the campaign.

secy@sreesumangala.com



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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 6:24:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-population-challenge-looms/article8548563.ece

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