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Transition from Natural to Semi-Controlled Birth Rate in India

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In terms of population growth over the last three decades among the large-sized less developed countries, India's index of 189.4 (Base 1950 = 100) is much lower than that of Mexico (254), Nigeria (245), Brazil (227), Pakistan (218), Bangladesh (209), and Indonesia (190). But China experienced a marginally lower rate, over the same period, with an estimated index of 181. Within the context of historic growth rate in the current century, it is not clear at this point in time if the present decade of 1981-1991 will register any significant change in the growth rate experienced during the last two decades-24.80% during 1961-71 and 25.00% during 1971-1981. The crude birth rate decline since the mid-1970s has almost stalled, hovering around 33-34 between 1976 and 1983, while the crude death rate continues its downward trend from 15.0 in 1976 to 11.9 in 1983. Given the slow pace of socio-economic development in rural India, and the low level of contraceptive use in the country as a whole, the medium term (Seventh Plan) and the long-term (replacement level fertility, NRR = 1, by the year 2001 A.D.) population policy objectives seem rather over-ambitious. The desirability of the objectives is beyond question, but the feasibility appears of a very low order. However, there is a wide variation in the observed decline in the fertility level among states and union territories since the mid-1960s. In particular, the Hindi-speaking belt-Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan-has not yet registered any meaningful decline in the estimated crude birth rate. The last section traces trends in the selected proximate determinants of fertility, such as: proportions married, mean age at marriage, widowhood, abortion, contraceptive use, and breast-feeding practices in India.

Affiliations: 1: Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston, Canada


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