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India’s Bare Branches



India’s demographic profile – particularly its unusually youthful population and large reservoir of skilled professionals – is now regarded as a key element of its ascent to the top rank of world powers.  While China, the world’s other “population billionaire,” is rapidly growing grayer, India is projected to add about a quarter of a billion workers to its labor force over the next two decades.  As a spate of new reports (herehere and here) highlight, this “youth bulge,” by expanding the national pool of savings and investment, will be a critical driver of the country’s economic prosperity. 

Talk about a “demographic dividend” is now ubiquitous and even includes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who believes it is the basis for the dawning “Indian Century.”  Yet there are reasons for skepticism – not least due to the vast inadequacies of the educational system – that this dividend is as large or potent as many make it out.  (And just this week, New Delhi hosted an international conference that made it clear not even India is immune to the challenges of an aging population.)  But as a new study reminds us yet again, there is another troubling demographic trend that will dim the country’s prospects: a rather pronounced deficit of females.

According to an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, India will have 20 percent more men than women by 2030 and the ratio is currently even higher in many parts of northern India, especially Punjab and Haryana but also Gujarat, New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.  According to some estimates, there will be 28 million more Indian men than women by 2020.

Abnormally high male-to-female ratios have long existed in many parts of India, as well as in other Asian countries like China, South Korea, Pakistan and Bangladesh.  Twenty years ago, Amartya Sen, the renowned Indian economist and Nobel Prize winner, estimated that Asia was “missing” some 100 million women.  A decade ago, two Western scholars, Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea Den Boer (here and here) concluded that China and India together accounted for 62-68 million missing females in Asia.  Others, too, have written about the phenomenon, which the Chinese term “bare branches” – referring to the voids in family trees caused by male offspring unable to carry on the family line because they cannot find wives.

The stark gender imbalance in many parts of India is the result of a deeply ingrained cultural preference for male heirs, combined for the widespread use of ultrasound technology for the purposes of gender-selective abortions.  Such abortions have been illegal in India since 1994, but the practice – along with female infanticide – remains prevalent nonetheless.  A 2006 article in the British medical journal The Lancet estimated that a half million female fetuses are aborted each year in India due solely to gender selection. Indeed, there is striking evidence that the practice has increased despite rising income levels within India and is even practiced among non-resident Indians residing in Western countries.  UNICEF, for example, has found that the number of sex-selective abortions has significantly increased since 1991 and that a higher percentage of boys are now born in most parts of India than was the case a decade ago.

The artificial deficit of females represents an incalculable loss of human capital in a country that desperately requires much more.  But the flip side of the gender imbalance also presents a welter of problems.  Hudson and Den Boer point to the dangers to domestic stability and international security caused by the growing populations of young adult men unable to find marriage partners and without a stake in the social order that comes from starting families.  The increased competition for brides caused by skewed male-to-female ratios is inevitably won by young men with better prospects, giving their cohorts from the lower socioeconomic classes even more reason for socially disruptive behavior.  These young men, for instance, are more susceptible to recruitment into criminal gangs and extremist groups.  There is already a fair amount of statistical evidence demonstrating a robust link between gender imbalances and violent crime in India.

Hudson and Den Boer also fear an increase in sectarian and ethnic violence in both India and Pakistan, along with increased authoritarianism as hard-pressed governments attempt to deal with an ever-expanding sub-class of unmarried young adult men lacking stable social bonds.  Time will tell whether the worst of these fears are borne out in South Asia, but it is undeniable that the problems of gender imbalance are already cutting into India’s developmental prospects.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this writing are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of League of India, its Editorial Board or the business and socio-political interests that they might represent.

This article was first published at India Foreign Policy Blogs here

David J. Karl is President of the Asia Strategy Initiative, a Los Angeles based consultancy that provides policy-relevant analysis of geopolitical, diplomatic and macro-economic developments, with particular focus on South Asia. He previously served as director of studies at the Pacific Council on International Policy, in charge of the Council’s think tank focused on foreign policy issues of particular resonance to the U.S West Coast, and was Project Director of the Joint Task Force on Enhancing India-U.S.Cooperation in the Global Innovation Economy.

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Arunachal Pradesh Launches Two New Contraceptives



Arunachal Pradesh government has launched two new contraceptives – an injectable one and a pill – under separate programmes to expand people’s choice contraceptives.

The injectable contraceptive was launched under the ‘Antara’ programme and the pill under ‘Chhaya’.

Gynecologists of various districts of the state were also trained on the new contraceptives during a programme. Family Welfare Director Dr K Lego urged people to take up the responsibility of providing the people the basket of contraceptives to avoid unnecessary abortion, teenage pregnancy and spacing.

India was the first country in the world to launch family planning programme as early as in 1952 with the aim of controlling its population, he said.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had launched two new contraceptives in September last year.

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India Registers Significant Decline in Child Mortality Rate



Rate of decline has doubled over last year

Big boost to ‘Mission Indradhanush’

Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda, expressed happiness over the just-released SRS bulletin (2016) as India registered a significant decline in under-five child mortality.

According to the bulletin, under-five child mortality (U5MR) of India showed an impressive decline by 9%, a 4 points decline from 43 per 1000 in 2015 to 39 in 2016.

The rate of decline has doubled over the last year. Not only this, number of under-five deaths for the first time in the country have come down to below 1 million with nearly 120,000 fewer under-five deaths in 2016 as compared to 2015.

Most of the states have shown good progress in reduction of under-five child mortality from the previous year, except Chattisgarh, Delhi and Uttarakhand, which have shown a slight increase over the previous year and Telangana, which has shown no change in 2016.

Congratulating all those associated with this remarkable feat,  Shri Nadda stated that the results signify that the strategic approach of the Government is yielding dividends and the efforts of focusing on low performing states are paying off. He stated that India with the current rate of decline of U5MR is on track to meet the SDG target for under-five child mortality of 25 by 2030.

The Health Minister further said that under the visionary leadership and guidance of the Hon. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji, the government is committed to advancing the agenda of Universal Health Coverage in the country and its initiatives like Mission Indradhanush and Intensified Mission Indradhanush, with their focused approach, is significantly turning the tide in favour of India.

Shri Nadda said that these remarkable achievements in merely one year are the result of countrywide efforts to increase the health service coverage through various initiatives of the Government that include strengthening of service delivery; quality assurance; RMNCH+A interventions; strengthening human resources and community processes; information and knowledge; drugs and diagnostics, and supply chain management, etc.

According to the SRS Bulletin, the gender gap in India for child survival is reducing steadily; the gender difference between female and male under-five mortality rates has now reduced to 11% which was as high as 17% in 2014.

The current under-five mortality for the male child is 37 per 1000, while for the female child is 41 per 1000 live births.

Amongst the bigger states, seven states (Chattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, MP, Odisha, Tamil Nadu Telangana) have reversed the gender gap in the survival of the female child, while four of these have reversed the gender gap for under-five survival. These are Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

Telangana, West Bengal, Odisha, Punjab and Delhi have depicted less than 5% gap in mortality of female child and are within striking distance to reverse the gender gap. The maximum gender gap in the survival of under-five for the female child is in Bihar (46% higher mortality for the female child), followed by Haryana (23%), Kerala (20%), Assam, Karnataka (19%) and Rajasthan (17%).

Further, the SRS Bulletin also shows that the neonatal mortality rate has reduced by 1 point from 25 per 1000 live births to 24 per 1000.

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Government Approves Closure of Autonomous Healthcare Bodies



Cabinet approves rationalization of Autonomous Bodies under Department of Health & Family Welfare

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the proposal for closure of Autonomous Bodies, namely, Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN) and Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (JSK) and the functions are proposed to be vested in Department of Health & Family Welfare (DoHFW).

The rationalization of Autonomous Bodies under Department of Health & Family Welfare will involve inter-ministerial consultations and review of existing bye-laws of these bodies. The timeframe for implementation is one year,

Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN) was set up as a registered society to provide financial medical assistance to poor patients receiving treatment in designated central government hospitals. An advance is placed with the Medical Superintendents of such hospitals who then provide assistance on a case to case basis.

Since the DoHFW provides funds to the hospitals, the grants can be given from the Department to the hospital directly. RAN functions can, therefore, be vested in DoHFW. Managing Committee of RAN Society will meet to dissolve the Autonomous Body (AB) as per provisions of Societies Registration Act, 1860 (SRA).

In addition to this, Health Minister’s Cancer Patient Fund (HMCPF) shall also be transferred to the Department. The timeline required for this is one year.

Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (JSK) was set up with a corpus grant of Rs.100 crores in the year 2003 to raise awareness for population stabilization strategies. JSK organizes various activities with target populations as a part of its mandate.

There has been no continuous funding to JSK from the Ministry. Population stabilization strategies require private and corporate funding, which can be accessed through JSK. Although JSK will continue to play a significant role in population stabilization strategies, its existence as an Autonomous Body is not necessary. Hence, JSK as an Autonomous Body can be closed as it can be administered by the Department as a fund.


Based on the recommendations of Expenditure Management Commission, NITI Aayog had undertaken a review of the 19 Autonomous Bodies, under the DoHFW, that have been formed under Societies Registration Act, 1860 (SRA) and submitted the Interim Report of the Committee for the Review of ABs with recommendations to rationalize the same.

The main concern of the Government is that ABs are required to be reviewed and rationalised with a view to improving their outcomes, effectiveness and efficiency, utilisation of financial and human resources, synergy, governance and relevance in current policy and programme context, with improved monitoring and oversight. The Committee had recommended closure of RAN and JSK and their functions to be vested in the Ministry.

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