Population Control in India: Success or Failure?

Instead of providing incentives to the people who follow the two-child policy, the government should use its financial resources in investing more towards improving the education, employment and health infrastructure of its citizens.

Population is one of the most important factors of any geographical and politically demarcated area. It directly affects or is affected by economic growth of a state or a country. By studying the demographics of population growth, the analysis of other phenomena such as age structure, competency and size of workforce, migration, and economic inequality of a particular area becomes much more comprehensive to understand. It is crucial to keep track of its dynamicity because there is a need to keep a balance between the number of people residing and contributing to a state’s economy and the amount of resources present in that state during a given period. When an area is attained to maintain this balance, it is only then that the demand of the people living within that territory gets fulfilled and the environment is preserved.

There is a famous theory propounded by the famous economist Thomas Robert Malthus, popularly known as the ‘Malthusian theory’. According to this theory, while the population growth takes place at an exponential rate, food and other resources grow at a relatively slower rate. This implies that with lesser production of resources, there would be a negative impact on the growing population as a whole. The most probable ways of overcoming this catastrophe would be through voluntary population control that includes medical interventions and changes in personal choices when it comes to marriage and reproduction. Despite the theory’s criticism from various scholars, India has had instances of adopting population control measures whose success has been debated across academia and politics. What has triggered such an urgency is the fear of ‘population explosion’, which is defined by a sudden rise in the population, which may cause economic and environmental burdens in a given area along with depriving the next generation’s opportunity of acquiring such resources.


It was in 1952 when India became the first developing country to have a government backed National Family Planning Program with an aim to lower fertility rates and foster slow population growth. During the emergency period (1975-77), the National Population Policy was implemented. Some of its major features were to increase the marriageable age for men and women, monetary incentives for people who went through mass sterilization, and promotion of female education. However, the policy could not meet the desired results particularly because of the coercive methods of mass sterilization, poor health infrastructure to implement such techniques and unequal distribution of resources among states. In the year 2000, the government launched a new policy called the ‘Family Welfare Programme’ that targeted to achieve a Total Fertility Rate to replacement level, a level that would lead to a stable population through addressing issues of contraception, maternal and childcare services, sanitation, education and female employment. This has been one of the most sustainable policies being followed till date.

After about two decades of the last policy, the Parliament introduced another bill, ‘Population Regulation Bill, 2019’, which is still pending to become a law. This bill introduces the concept of ‘two-child policy’ where government employees would be mandated to take an undertaking of not having more than two children. Any breaches of the agreement may cost them the privileges of government services. On the other hand, couples that follow the policy would be given additional benefits in education, employment and healthcare among other things. The main motivation behind this bill was based on the analysis of statistics of the past population trends in the last decade which indicated that India is increasingly becoming overpopulated and may soon overtake China as the most populous country in the world. This may strain the country’s resources, affecting the living conditions, as also propounded in the Malthusian theory.

Since the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India permits both the Central and State Governments to formulate laws related to population control and family planning, various states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Assam have already implemented such policies. Uttar Pradesh is the latest in the list to introduce a similar policy on 11th July 2021, also remembered as ‘World Population Day’.


While many states have taken recourse to a two-child policy, there has been a sense of skepticism among many about its efficacy. This is primarily after the release of latest data from the ‘National Health Family Survey-5’, which gives an insight about the awareness and increase in controlling birth through contraceptives in rural and urban areas. This has caused an overall decline in the average number of children being born in the past few years which gives hope about the country’s stabilizing population. In fact, it is likely that such policies can become counterintuitive as it may increase the chances of sex selective practices which will impact a woman’s health and empowerment along with a skewed sex ratio towards men.

A better alternative to maintain economic growth despite a rising population could be to enhance the younger population to become a productive workforce. This implies generating more employable and educational opportunities as well as promoting a culture of acquiring the required and relevant knowledge and skills that can be rendered in the form of services to solve various problems plaguing the society. This will further increase the income prospects of the individual and keep the economy running. A state should also have the support of enough capital and entrepreneurial spirit that can be used to set up various labour-intensive industries to generate employment. Apart from this, a robust health infrastructure could also be leveraged to ensure the quality of an efficient workforce.

India is yet to achieve a universal method in achieving population control. With such ambiguities of the interpretation of two-child policy, it is indeed a debate over whether it would be a success or a failure. While it’s logical to interpret that a growing population leads to a depletion of resources, curbing down the birth rate is not necessarily the most productive way through which such an issue could be overcome. Instead of providing incentives to the people who follow the two-child policy, the government should use its financial resources in investing more towards improving the education, employment, and health infrastructure of its citizens. This strategy could possibly bring out more sustainable results in controlling the population of its country.










Medhaa Priya is a sophomore pursuing Integrated Masters in Humanities and Social Science from IIT Madras. She is interested in Research and Data Analysis and wishes to pursue a career that integrates both. She likes to advocate about Education, Financial Literacy, Mental Health and Fitness.

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