07/19/2010, 00.00
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India’s population growth against world ‘demographic winter’, Indian Church says

by Nirmala Carvalho
Mgr Angelo Gracias, Family Commission president, speaks to AsiaNews about a statement by the Indian government in which it says that it would not use coercive methods to slow birthrate. The words are good but facts tell another story. For prelate, “we must stop the demographic winter that afflicts the world.”
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The Indian Church has welcomed a government statement that it would not use coercive methods to control population growth; nevertheless, such methods do exist even if they are not visible, said Mgr Agnelo Gracias, president of the Family Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of India. He was responding to a statement by the Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who said that the Indian government would not use coercive measures to stop population growth. Currently, India’s population is estimated at around 1.2 billion people, and is expected to overtaken China’s by 2050.

Population grown in India now stands at 1.5 per cent a year, the equivalent of what it was in China in the 1970s before the Maoist regime adopted its infamous ‘one-child policy’ (actually one for urban couples, two for rural couples).

After 30 years, the policy has had devastating effects. Because of traditional preference for boys, now about 100 million adult men cannot find a spouse.

Probably because of such dismal results, the Indian government has adopted a pro-life stance, including a series of measures against selective abortions. However, for Mgr Gracias, the government policy is still flawed. For instance, “some public sector jobs are not offered to people who have more than two children. The Church has always been on the side of parents who keep the children that come their way. The state can lay down guidelines,” he said, “but it cannot set the right number of children per family.”

Demographics are “a complex issue. It is not a numbers game to be tackled in simplistic terms of coercive vs. non-coercive measures. In 1798, Thomas Malthus formulated an apocalyptic theory of declining food supply in an increasingly populated world. His followers adopted policies against the family to reduce world population. However, contrary to his predictions, the planet has shown that it has the resources to feed us all.”

Secondly, “domestically, how can we define an over-populated country? That is hard to say. Let us take India. It is a very populous nation, but it is also very big. There are many other nations with a higher density but that are also highly developed. Hence, a correlation between economic and population growth exists. Today, however, most developed nations have a birthrate lower than others, but if they want to continue to grow, they must not cut their population.”

Finally, Mgr Gracias notes, “In many nations, the fear is not having enough people, of ‘demographic winter’, which is affecting many parts of the world and could continue. Let us hope that India will not follow this path, which leads to destruction.”

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