Is Overpopulation India’s Doomsday Device? – A Critique on Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Published on: August 04,2021 14:35 IST

By Athik Saleh

A country that has one of the most diverse populations in the world; a country that puts the Amazon Forest at shame with the kind of diversity that can be found from one state to another – India and its population has been a hot topic for a long time. At first, it was about diversity but now, it is about size.

In 1960, India’s population was an estimated 450.5 million. In 2020, the population became 1.4 billion. In 50 years, it has more than doubled. It is now the second populous country in the world, only behind China.

Various reports have suggested that India will overtake China and become the most populous country in the world in this decade.

Although India has never experienced as high a growth rate as China had in the 60s, constant decline in its growth rate since the early 70s while India’s growth stayed above 2.0 percent till the early 90s.

The association between population and development is not something new. Those who were alive in the 80s will remember “hum do, humare do” – a slogan that signified how more than two children contributed to the development problem.

Politicians in the country have often pointed out how the uncontrollable growth in population in the country has added to the woes.

However, the last five years have seen an increase in efforts to make population control a virtue. The first of these attempts was in 2018 when 125 MPs wrote a letter urging the President to make law on a two-child policy that will make having more than two children a punishable offence.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s independence speech in 2019 gave a new impetus to this movement. In his speech, he alluded to India’s “population explosion” and expressed his concerns about the same. In his speech, he called those who keep small families patriots and expressed how those few deserve respect from all of us.

This saga entered a new realm when Anil Desai, an MP in Rajya Sabha representing the Shiv Sena party moved a private member’s bill in the parliament to amend the Constitution.

He proposed to add a new article to the Directive Principles of State Policy that, like the previous recommendations from various corners, makes the two-child policy an official one. This article will attempt to understand what the amendment proposes to do.

While doing that, we will also delve into the question of whether India needs population control or not.

What is the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2020?

Introduced on 7th February 2020, the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2020 seeks to address India’s population issue with the addition of Article 47A to the Constitution. The bill was introduced by Anil Desai, an MP representing Shiv Sena in the Rajya Sabha.

According to the statement of object and reasons of the bill, India’s overpopulation is something that needs addressing.

As the population of the country is increasing and is bound to overtake China to become the most populous country in the world, tackling this issue is of paramount importance so that future generations and natural resources do not have to bear the brunt.

The bill seeks to add Article 47A to the Directive Principle of State Policy. The article reads as follows|:

The State shall promote small family norms by offering incentives in taxes, employment, education etc. to its people who keep their family limited to two children and shall withdraw every concession from and deprive such incentives to those not adhering to small family norm, to keep the growing population under control.[1]

The scheme of the article is in line with what the statement of object and reasons addressed. The statement described it frightening that India has crossed the 125 crores mark as far its population is concerned.

For dealing with something as frightening, Article 47A proposes to make a policy that pushes families in India in a direction where they choose to have only two children or less. The bill suggests that such a policy must be incentivized so that people choose to have two children rather than having more.

To make the policy something that does not end up as a matter of private discretion, the bill proposes that those who do not follow the policy of two children per family must not be eligible for any concessions or incentives from the state.

The bill, although proposes to add a provision to the Directive Principle of State Policy, tries to make having more than two children something punishable (indirectly).

It talks about the withdrawal of tax concessions, educational benefits, etc. Given to families with more than two children.

Are we Doomed if Two-Child Policy is not Implemented?

Most of the concerns about India’s over population stem from the reports that circulating since the beginning of this millennia about how India will become the most populous country before 2030.

China, which was once that most populous country, riding the wave of its one-child policy, has arrested its population growth.

The question must be asked – Is India in dire need of population control? Is overpopulation in India a ‘doomsday device as it is propagated to be?

Ever since Prime Minister Modi opened Pandora’s box by calling those families who do not have more than two children “responsible and “patriots.” A theater of drama has ensued then, produced, and directed by those who like to play vote bank politics.

India’s population has indeed increased steadily and at a high rate. However, the Prime Minister said that there is an “explosion.” The Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2020 calls it frightening that India’s population has grown at such an alarming rate.

We need to understand whether overpopulation has become a problem too big that if not addressed now, it spells bad luck for the country or not.

One of the most crucial factors to look at for understanding the dynamics of the population demographic of a country is the TFR or total fertility rate. The TFR gives an idea about how many children that a woman is likely to have during her lifetime.

The TFR in India during 1950-1955 was as high as 5.8. However, in the period between 2015-2020, the rate has come down to 2.2.[2] If the United Nation’s projections are to be believed, India’s TFR will decline and by 2065, it will go as low as 1.71.[3]

In India, although there are states that have their TFR above the national average, the recent National Family Health Survey shows that there is more convergence between the state average and the national average.

It is also important to note that the present national average TFR is close to the replacement level TFR, which is 2.1. Anything below this is not ideal as that will lead to the situation what China and various other countries are facing now – greying of population.

Another interesting piece of data that most people allude to while making their arguments about how India is going to be the most populous country in the world in a few years is the rate of growth.

When we take a glance at the rate of population growth in India, we can see that there has been a steady decline in the rate. What was once 2.3 during 1980-1985 is estimated to become 0.93 during the period between 2020-2025.

What is even better is that the growth is projected to reach as low as 0.02 in the period between 2055-2060.

What do we understand when we place the available data and the proposed amendment side by side?

The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is an attempt to eradicate a problem that many Indians have been looking at as something that needs immediate solution – overpopulation in the country. The data, on the other hand, suggest that such a problem does not exist.

What laypeople forget to understand is that problems related to demographics must be understood based on the share of age groups in the population.

In India, over 60 percent of the population falls into the 15-64 age group. Only, 6.57 percent of the population are above 65. What that means is that the country has abundant human resources.

The proposed amendment and similar outcries to make the two-child policy a law are based on a falsified notion of reality. Most of the politicians who propose such an authoritarian measure is knowingly or unknowingly trying to make exclusion legal. They have little to no idea how such a measure will affect the stakeholders.

The proposed amendment does not take into consideration the reality of India. In those states where the TFR is still higher than the national average, the reality of education, healthcare, etc. is nothing but bleak.

However, we all can rejoice in the fact that even those states have and are making improvements as far as their family planning is concerned.


The inclusion of Article 47A or any other similar provision in the Constitution will create nothing but more division in the society.

The proposal to make those families with more than two children ineligible to Government concessions and incentives that they are otherwise eligible for is something that only an authoritarian regime can/will do.

The world we live in has plenty of examples where forced family planning has gone wrong. Greying of population and lack of workforce is something that most European nations are going through. Asian countries like Japan and China are going through the same.

Family planning at an individual level is entirely dependent on the availability of quality education and healthcare. Available data shows that education empowers women and men to make wise decisions regarding family planning.

The Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2020 does not take into consideration available data. These outcries from mainstream and fringe politicians must be looked at for what they are – a political gimmick.

A gimmick to entice their vote banks and create an environment of fear where they can thrive.


  1. Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2020, Article 47A
  2. The Registrar General of India, “SRS Statistical Report 2018” (May 2020)
  3. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “World Population Prospectus” (July 2019)

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