India has achieved significant success is the population growth of the country over the last couple decades. While some of the gains were achieved through sometimes coercive and controversial sterilization programs, large scale education and awareness building initiatives also played and important role in reducing fertility rate.
Seems like the Indian government is re-visiting the issue of population growth, given that the fertility rate in India is about 2.7 births per woman, still higher than 2.1, the rate that would stabilize the population growth. In 1970, the fertility rate in both India and China was similar, averaging at about 5.5 births per woman. China has made great strides in curbing population growth, by instituting rather strict population policies. As the Indian government re-visits the problem, they are quite aware that coercive and forceful methods would not work in a democratic environment. What is needed are innovative approaches.
The NYTimes profiles one such innovative pilot program in the state of Maharashtra, where the government would provide cash incentives to newly married if the waiting to have children:
The program here in Satara is a pilot program — one of several initiatives across the country that have used a softer approach — trying to slow down population growth by challenging deeply ingrained rural customs. Experts say far too many rural women wed as teenagers, usually in arranged marriages, and then have babies in quick succession — a pattern that exacerbates poverty and spurs what demographers call “population momentum” by bunching children together. In Satara, local health officials have led campaigns to curb teenage weddings, as well as promoting the “honeymoon package” of cash bonuses and encouraging the use of contraceptives so that couples wait to start a family.
Using innovative approaches such as conditional cash-transfers to reduce population growth is quite pattern-breaking. What India needs is more such out-of-the-box approaches in address deep-rooted social challenges.