. Recently, there has been discussion in the media on India’s population future prompted by release of the Sample Registration System (SRS) Statistical Report (2018) and global population projections made by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), US.
Fertility has been declining in India for some time now. SRS report estimated the Total Fertility Rate (TFR), the number of children a mother would have at the current pattern of fertility during her lifetime, as 2.2 in the year 2018. Fertility is likely to continue to decline and it is estimated that replacement TFR of 2.1 would soon be, if not already, reached for India as a whole. As fertility declines, so does the population growth rate. This report estimated the natural annual population growth rate to be 1.38 per cent in 2018. With India’s estimated population of 137 crore, this means that net 1.9 crore persons would have been added that year.
The UN Population Division has estimated that India’s population would possibly peak at 161 crore around 2061 at the medium-fertility variant, and will be lower by about 10 per cent at the low fertility variant.
The most troubling statistics in the report are for sex ratio at birth. Biologically normal sex ratio at birth is 1,050 males to 1,000 females or 950 females to 1,000 males. The SRS reports show that sex ratio at birth in India, measured as the number of females per 1,000 males, declined marginally from 906 in 2011 to 899 in 2018. There is considerable son preference in all states, except possibly in Kerala and Chhattisgarh. The UNFPA State of World Population 2020 estimated the sex ratio at birth in India as 910, lower than all the countries in the world except China. This is a cause for concern because this adverse ratio results in a gross imbalance in the number of men and women and its inevitable impact on marriage systems as well as other harms to women.