Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned his countrymen about the risks of overpopulation on Wednesday, arguing that having small families was its own “form of patriotism.”
Addressing his supporters for the 37th Independence Day celebrations, Modi warned that India’s current population growth was not sustainable.
“Population explosion will cause many problems for our future generations,” he said. “We have to think if we can do justice to the aspirations of our children. There is a need to have greater discussion and awareness on population explosion.”
Modi went on to praise an “informed section” of Indians who were already having smaller families as “playing a big role in doing good for the country.”
“But there is a vigilant section of the public which stops to think, before bringing a child to the world, whether they can do justice to the child, give them all that she or he wants,” he continued. “They have a small family and express their patriotism to the country. Let’s learn from them. There is a need for social awareness. Those who follow the policy of small family also contribute to the development of the nation, it is also a form of patriotism.”
India currently has a population of 1.37 billion, making it the second-most populous country in the world after China. Although such numbers have led to rapid economic growth, the sheer quantity of people has exacerbated problems such as high unemployment, pressure on infrastructure, income inequality, inflation, and a scarcity of resources.
Modi, who recently started his second term following the success of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in April’s general election, remained bullish about India’s economic potential, declaring that the “fundamentals of India’s economy are strong,” and he predicted the country would have a GDP of $5 trillion within in five years.
“Today, the government in India is stable, the policy regime is predictable … the world is eager to explore trade with India. We are working to keep prices under check and increase development,” he said. “India doesn’t want just incremental progress. A high jump is needed, our thought process has to be expanded. We have to keep in mind global best practices and build good systems.”
In the 1970s, the Indian government introduced forced sterilizations for men in an attempt to control population growth, but the policy was scrapped after widespread public anger. Human rights activists insist the practice still persists at a local level. According to the government’s National Health Mission, over 1.9 million people were sterilized in India in the years 2017 and 2018, the majority of whom were women.