Population Explosion: A Dangerous Reality

Population explosion or growth of population at an uncontrolled rate is one of the major problems India is facing today. In this article, the author wishes to discuss the population growth, its impact on the environment, society and especially on the individual growth of a child along with the role of legislation and judiciary in handling the situation.


The post-World War era or in other words the Cold War era i.e. period extending from 1945 to 1991 saw an unprecedented increase in the world’s population especially of a developing country like India.[1] Any country goes through three different phases in analyzing the demographic transition of the population growth, each phase having a different tendency. The first phase is called ‘stationary phase’ where both fertility and mortality rate is high, which means there is low population growth. The second phase is called ‘expansion phase’ where fertility rate increases while the mortality rate declines. Third and the last phase is ‘decline phase’. India comes under the category of expansion phase as due to various factors such as improvement in medical facilities mortality rate is decreasing but there is no control on the number of births.

Current Scenario of India’s Population

India ranks second in the world in terms of the population size, while India accounts for only 2.4% of the world area, that is, 2.5 square miles.[2] As per the census of 2011 India’s population is 1,21,01,93,422 (1210.2 million), whereas in 2001 census the population was 1,02,87,37,436 implying a population growth of 17.64% in a decade.[3] The absolute increase in the population is almost equal to the population of Brazil, the fifth most populous country in the world.[4] It is almost equal to the combined population of the U.S.A., Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan took together (1214.3 million)[5]. Although China is the most populous country in the world India is more densely populated than China, whose area is larger than that of India. However, there is an exception in the growth of population in the decade of 2001-2011. This decade has comparatively added less population as compared to the previous decade. For the first time, India has shown the sharpest decline in the decadal population growth by 3.9% from 21.54% to 17.64%. Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state of India with a population more than the population of Brazil. The combined population of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra is more than the population of U.S.A.

Impact of Population Growth

Population growth has led to the expansion of metropolitan cities. There has been the catalytic growth in the urbanization over the past half-century. By 2030 urban areas are expected to house 40% of India’s population and contribute to 75% of India’s GDP.[6] However, the demographic transition has a negative impact on the environment. The problem of population size, resource utilization and depletion and most important environmental degradation needs to be tackled jointly on the global level. The growing population has created a pressure on the socio-economic, cultural, ecological and environmental aspects of the country.

In an agricultural or technological society, each individual has a negative impact on his/her environment.[7] The total negative impact the society has on the environment can be calculated by the relation: I= P.F[8]. Here P is the population and I is the function which measures the per capita impact. The population growth has led to the increased requirement for the settlements which has led to the deforestation and hence impacting the whole natural cycle of the environment. Rapid population growth causes the increase in demand for food and this is the reason why developing countries like India faces a shortage of food grains.

Poverty and population growth are interlinked in several ways. In India, the people below the poverty line often feels that more children mean more helping hand to support the family financially. Research indicates that smaller family size can accelerate economic development and reduce the poverty of the households.[9] Small families find it easy to come out of the vicious cycle of poverty if they utilize the resources available to them properly. Children from larger families do not get access to education and suffer from poor health because of the financial constraints of the parents and their inability to up bring all the children equally. This problem is specific not only to India but to the whole world. To tackle the issue, the year 1979 was marked as the “International Year of the Child.”[10]

Enactments & Government Policies to Counter Population Growth

There is no specific law in India which deals directly with the population explosion. To counter the impact that population growth has on the country, the first population control legislation came in India by way 42nd amendment to the Constitution. The amendment added a new entry entitled “population control and family planning” to the list III of the Schedule 7 of the constitution.[11] The first family planning programme was implemented in 1966 and a separate Department of Family Planning was set up in the Ministry of Health during the fourth five year plan period with a target to reduce the birth rate from 39 to 25 per 1000 population.[12] India is the first country in the world to adopt family planning programme.

In mid-1980s Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi came up with the changes in family welfare programme but all efforts went down in vain. In response to the 1991 population census, the Karunakaran Committee was set up by the National Development Council (NDC) which came up with the recommendation of formation of National Population Policy (NPP). Finally, NPP came into force in 2000 with the immediate objective to address “the unmet needs for contraception, healthcare infrastructure, and health personnel, and to provide integrated service delivery for basic reproductive and child healthcare.”[13]

The Population (regulation) bill 2019 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha as a private member bill. The bill calls for punitive action against the people with more than two living children and debars them from the government services.[14] However, various experts argue that the proposed bill would lead to sex-selective abortion due to the preference for the male child in the society, thus decreasing the male-female ratio.

Policies at Local & State Level

Though there is no specific legislation at the central level, various policies have been implemented at the state and local level. In 1997, the state of Andhra Pradesh came up with its State Population policy. In the subsequent years, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan came up with its state population policies. In 2017 Assam government passed the two-child policy according to which no persons with more than two children will be eligible for government employment from January 2021.[15] State of Madhya Pradesh adopted a similar policy since 2001, in which people having more than two children are even debarred from the judicial services. 

Rajasthan passed an act in 1994 disqualifying people having more than two children for contesting the election of panch at the local level. In Maharashtra women having more than two children are not eligible for the public distribution system (PDS). In Karnataka, only individuals having two or fewer children, as well as having a ‘sanitary latrine’ in their residence, can contest in local elections.  

In the case of Javed v. Haryana[16] the constitutional validity of the two-child norm to combat population control was challenged before the honourable Supreme Court. It was argued that the policy is arbitrary, discriminatory, violates the personal liberty of an individual and also the right to religion.[17] However, the apex court rejected the petitions filed by hundreds of petitioners in the landmark judgment ruling “the provision is neither arbitrary nor discriminatory. The disqualification mentioned in S.175 (1 q) of Haryana Panchayat Raj Act seeks to achieve the socio-economic welfare and health care of the masses and is consistent with NPP.”[18]


The population of India is increasing at a rapid rate. If the population continues to grow at such an uncontrolled rate then a time would come when all the forests would vanish to establish settlements and there would be a scarcity of food grains. The deforestation would lead to environmental depletion and create the imbalance in the natural cycle. 

The population growth has a huge impact on the overall growth of a child. More the number of children, lesser the parents can spend on their education and necessities. This ultimately leads to poverty and the vicious cycle of poverty continues generation after generation.

The need of the hour is to control the population growth and this possible only with the intervention of the government and the judiciary. Although various state governments have passed various provisions to tackle the situation the Central government needs to pass a pan India legislation. Apart from this even if this legislation is enacted it needs to be implemented properly. Only then the situation can be handled and the population can be controlled.

[1] Population Explosion in India: Causes and Effects, available at https://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/speech/population-explosion-in-india-causes-and-effects/39364 (Last Visited on June 7, 2020).

[2] Usha Tandon, “Notes and Comments: Population Growth and Sustainable Development” 50 JILI 209 (2008).

[3] Government of India, Report: Census 2011 (Ministry of Home Affairs, 2011).

[4] Id at 10.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Government of India, Report: Smart Cities: Mission statement and guidelines (Ministry of Urban Development, 2015).

[7] Impact of Population Growth, available at https://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/impact-population-growth/ (Last Modified October 22, 2019).

[8] Ibid.

[9] The fewer the merrier: Family size and education in India, available at https://voxeu.org/article/family-size-and-education-india (Last modified March 20, 2016).

[10] Omamurhomu Solomon Okobiah, “Effects of Population Change on Family Life and the Child: Implications for Home Economics Programs in Nigeria” 30 FR 49 (1981).

[11] Supra note 2 at 215.

[12] Population Policy, available at file:///C:/Users/Dell/Downloads/population_policy.pdf (Visited on June 8, 2020).

[13] National Population Policy of India, available at https://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/essay/national-population-policy-of-india/41254 (Visited on June 8, 2020).

[14] Can propose `Population Regulation Bill, 2019′ solve India’s population growth crisis?, available at https://www.livemint.com/news/india/can-proposed-population-regulation-bill-2019-solve-india-s-population-growth-crisis-1563197280540.html (Visited on June 9, 2020).

[15] Editorial, “Assam to implement two-child norm for government jobs from 2021” The Times of India, Oct. 23, 2019.

[16] (2003) 8 SCC 369.

[17] Supra note 2 at 217.

[18] Supra note 16.

Aaina Mittal from Dr. B.R. Ambedkar National Law University, Haryana

As a student of law, Aaina’s goal is to become a successful litigator. She likes to researching on various legal issues and painting is her passion.

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