ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Seven Billion and Counting

The problem is not population growth but the patterns of consumption.

On 31 October, Nargis, born to Vinita and Ajay in Danaur village in Uttar Pradesh, became the seventh billion resident of Planet Earth. For Nargis’ parents, her birth was a reason to celebrate for she was their first child. For India, Nargis symbolised not just one more mouth to feed in a country where every other child is malnourished, but also a girl child, an increasingly endangered species in a country where the child sex ratio has declined alarmingly to an all-time low of 914 girls to 1,000 boys.

Although demographers cannot confirm with absolute certainty whether the seven billion mark has been crossed, it is a fair guess. And 31 October was as good a day as any to look again at the “population problem”. But is it a problem? Has our understanding of the challenges of an increasing population changed in these last decades as we acknowledge that the use and consumption of the world’s resources is an equal area of concern? Interestingly, despite the screaming headlines about the world’s population hitting seven billion, there was little talk of a “population explosion” as was witnessed in the past. Does this mean that the import of what women’s groups and others have been stressing for decades, that population growth and stabilisation must necessarily be rooted in women’s right to health and reproductive choice, has finally found its mark?

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