[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]


Here is an article by Jairam Ramesh that appeared in India Today
dated 10 Aug 1998. India Today's website is at http://www.india-today.com
I have not obtained their permission to post it here. I hope it is okay.
One point I disagree with in this article is where Jairam Ramesh says
that all theories are useless. This is not true. In the long run, for the
population to remain stable *without intervention*, we need those
"useless" theories.


Three Bundles of Joy

Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh: India's population revolution

Jairam Ramesh

Kerala is now part of development folklore. Its social 
indicators are world class. It
has a female literacy rate of well above 90 per cent, 
even male life expectancy of
over 70 years and an infant mortality rate of around 13 
per 1,000 live births. Its
population growth rate is about 1.2 per cent per year. 
While Kerala is admired, it
has been considered unreplicable because of its unique 
social history, matriarchal
traditions and political culture. But now Tamil Nadu has 
emulated Kerala in family

The key milestone in demographic behaviour is the 
replacement level of fertility.
This is called the total fertility rate (TFR) and is 
defined as the average number of
children a woman will have if she experiences the 
current fertility pattern throughout
her reproductive span. The magic number for the TFR is 
2.1. After about 20-25
years of reaching this level, the population growth rate 
becomes zero. Kerala
reached replacement levels of fertility in 1988. Tamil 
Nadu achieved this in 1993. Its
population growth rate is now around 1.3 per cent per 

At first sight, Tamil Nadu's success is intriguing. Its 
female literacy rate is now 56
per cent, roughly on a par with Punjab. Its infant 
mortality rate in 1996 was 54 per
1,000, compared to Punjab's 52. Punjab's per capita 
expenditure on family welfare
is about 60 per cent more than Tamil Nadu's. Punjab is a 
smaller state and has the
same level of son-fixation as Tamil Nadu. Yet, Tamil 
Nadu has reduced its birth
rate dramatically since 1980. Punjab, on current 
reckoning, will not reach
replacement levels of fertility till 2019. 

Way back in the '20s, leading citizens of Madras set up 
an organisation called the
Malthusian League. "Periyar" Ramaswamy Naicker, the 
great social reformer,
advocated family planning. Independent India's first 
census commissioner was an
ICS officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre, R.A. Gopalaswamy. 
He incurred the
permanent wrath of Jawaharlal Nehru by suggesting the 
result of the 1951 census
-- which put India's population at 350 million, vastly 
more than commonly expected
-- was the outcome of "improvident maternity". 

Gopalaswamy recommended terminal methods to control 
India's population. He
was banished to his state for heresy. Thereafter, there 
were other outstanding
family planning missionaries in the IAS. Most notably, 
T.V. Antony, who retired as
Tamil Nadu's chief secretary and was nicknamed Tubectomy 
Vasectomy Antony. 

But fundamentally, it was the political leadership of 
Kamaraj and Soundaram
Ramachandran -- and later from the DMK and AIADMK -- 
which established an
effective family planning programme. NGOs too have 

The experience of American academic Myron Weiner is 
revealing here. Some
years ago, he wrote The Child and State in India, in 
which he suggested making
primary education truly compulsory. He sent copies of 
his book to various political
leaders. The only enthusiastic response he got was from 
J. Jayalalitha, then Tamil
Nadu's chief minister. Her record in backing social 
programmes was impressive,
like had been that of her mentor, M.G. Ramachandran. 

It was MGR who launched the midday meal programme that 
now reaches six to
seven million children. Tamil Nadu has also pioneered a 
number of special nutrition
programmes and schemes to provide social security to 
those in the unorganised
sector. In 1995, Manmohan Singh replicated these 

The hallmarks of Tamil Nadu's success have been a better 
health service and an
innovative communications campaign. Extensive primary 
health infrastructure has
facilitated this. Like Kerala, Tamil Nadu has used 
sterilisation as the most
common contraceptive method. The approach was targeted 
at younger couples in
early stages of fertility. 

Next, Andhra Pradesh will reach a TFR of 2.1 in 2001 or 
2002. This state's
achievement too flies in the face of conventional 
wisdom. It has a low female
literacy rate (36 per cent), high infant mortality (66 
per 1,000 live births) and a low
mean age of marriage for women (17.8 years). Further, 
unlike Tamil Nadu, it has no
tradition of family planning advocacy. 

Yet, Andhra Pradesh's fertility rates are falling 
rapidly. Perhaps N.T. Rama Rao's
social welfare programmes empowered people. An active 
women's movement has
taken root. Food security through fair price shops has 
been extensive and effective.
Expenditure on social welfare programmes -- at 3.3 per 
cent of the state's GDP --
leaves other states trailing. 

Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh show what is possible 
given sensitive political
leadership, a proactive development administration and 
an overall ethos conducive
to social welfare. The two states exemplify what 
political scientist James Manor
has called the power of "regional progressives". They 
also show that theories are
useless. Each state has its own dynamics. 

What works is people's desire for family planning. Even 
today, in Uttar Pradesh
there is a 30 per cent unmet demand. The failure of the 
Government to meet this
demand for family planning is the real tragedy, not just 
poverty or illiteracy. 

The author is secretary of the AICC's Economic Affairs 
Department. The views expressed here are his own.

This is a posting to India_Policy Discussion list:  debate@indiapolicy.org
Rules, Procedures, Archives:            http://www.indiapolicy.org/debate/