Open Letter to Honorable Prime Minister Narendrabhai
By Chaitanya Davé
July 21, 2014
Honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendrabhai
Congratulations on your smashing victory for the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections. It is indeed my pleasure to write to you. I want to thank you for meeting my wife and I on December 7, 2013 at your residence in Gandhinagar despite you being the busiest man in India at the time. Due to time constraint, I could not elaborate to you my vision for India. So kindly allow me to express it now. These are my thoughts:
Population Control: We have 1.25 billion people in India today. Tonight, 219,000 people who were not there last night, will be there at the dinner table—many of them with empty plates. Many of them will be Indians. Tomorrow night, additional batch of new people will be there for dinner. According to Earth Policy Institute, while the world population has slowed down from the peak of 2.1 percent in 1967 to 1.1 percent in 2014, the global population is still projected to grow to 9.5 billion by 2050. As per United Nations, India will add another 500 million people by the year 2050. Though India’s population growth rate has declined, its population will surpass that of China by 2028. Imagine! At current level, India is so overcrowded. All our systems are stretched to the brink. What will India be like when we have half a billion more people? Today, India creates around two million new jobs per year while some 12 million fresh young people are added to the labor force. Thus, all the development and new job creation will have marginal impact when we keep adding millions of people to the labor force due to burgeoning population. No country in the history has reached the developed nation state without controlling and stabilizing its population. There are several ways we can combat this perennial problem. We can learn a lot from other countries’ examples.
Iran’s Example: Just in one decade, Iran lowered its high population growth rate to one of the lowest in the developing world after its government carried out a successful family planning campaign—During Ayatollah Khomeini’s rule, the growth rate had climbed to 4.2 % in the early 1980s—with religious leaders also getting involved for smaller families. It was almost like a crusade. Iran adopted panoply of contraceptive measures including contraceptive pills, male sterilization and other forms of birth control. These were supplied freely. In fact, Iran became a pioneer, the only country to require couples to take a class on modern contraception before receiving a marriage license. Additionally, a broad-based effort was launched to raise female literacy, raising it from 25% in 1970 to 90% in 2000. The school enrollment of women went up from 60% to 90%. Taking advantage of TV sets in 70% of rural households, television was used to disseminate vital information on family planning throughout the country. All these measures bore fruits. Family size dropped from 7 children to fewer than 3. From 1987 to 1994, Iran cut its population growth rate by half. As of 2006, its population growth rate of 1.3% is only slightly higher than that in the United States.
Mexico’s Example: Mexico also applied this approach rather successfully. Its National Television Network Televisa ran a series of soap opera segments on illiteracy. One of these soap opera characters visited a literacy office wanting to learn how to read and write. Next day, a quarter million people showed up at these offices in Mexico City. Finally, 840,000 Mexicans enrolled in literacy courses after watching the series. Miguel Sabido, vice-president of Televisa, the pioneer of this approach, dealt with contraception in another opera. Within a decade, this drama series helped reduce Mexico’s birth rate by 34%!
So why not to learn from these countries’ successful stories? We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Worldwide, 44 countries including nearly all Western and Eastern European ones have achieved population stability as a result of gradual fertility decline over last several generations. Our high priority national goal demands that we achieve zero population growth sir. This can be achieved not by coercion like in China but by mass propaganda campaign, persuasion and government provided benefits to those couples with two children or less. According to Earth Policy Institute, more than 200 million women around the globe would like to prevent or delay pregnancy but lack access to family planning information or effective contraception. We can make this vital information and contraception means freely available to millions of our young women who don’t have them. Women’s education is a major factor in achieving smaller families. State of Kerala is a shining example of that where the literacy rate is almost 100% including extremely high rate for its women. As a result, Kerala’s population growth is highly stabilized.
Bollywood Contribution Vital: In India, the Hindi movies reach every corner of the country including its hundreds of thousands of villages. There exists in India a kind of “hero Worship” of our actors and actresses. They are treated like Gods and Goddesses. Your government Narendrabhai can encourage our movie producers, directors, actors and actresses to produce movies that have a profound message : The message of the tremendous benefit of smaller families to the family as well as the country. Our village folks will surely follow the examples of our popular actors and actresses. The government can offer tax-benefits to the movie producers–and its actors and actresses–that emphatically gives the message of “the benefits of smaller families” to the Indian masses. This could have deep impact on the psyche of the masses across India.
Thus, Bollywood can make enormous contribution towards encouraging the masses—especially the young people who really matter– to limit their families to two children, because they have so much clout with them. The clear message of the importance of smaller families—for their own betterment and the country’s–communicated by Hindi movies could reverberate all across India.
I remember, when we were young, we used to see movies in Bhavnagar, Gujarat. There, before the start of the movie, we were shown the photo of the Maharaja of Bhavnagar. Upon seeing this photo, the audience used to clap as a respect to the king. I guess, it was compulsory for the theaters to show this photograph of the king. By the same token, your government can pass the legislation that requires every movie house across India—before the main movie starts–to project a 15 minute clip of a documentary—prepared by experts—that gives the message of the benefits of small families to young people. Imagine, hundreds of millions of young people getting this important message; a message that can penetrate the hearts and minds of millions of youngsters! Couldn’t this have tremendous impact on the young married couples?
Teach family planning course to India’s youth in the high school all across India.
Two times a year, take senior high school students to villages to talk to the villagers about family planning and its advantages. This should be a part of their curriculum.
Legislate a law where every young couple requires a marriage license before getting married. Require in the law that before qualifying for the license, they have to pass a family planning course of say 3 months’ duration. To enforce this law, vast network of officials will be required in major villages across India. We do have the manpower to do this.
Shift to Green Energy: Not only India but the whole world desperately needs to shift its economy to sustainable green energy. After reading your book that you had so graciously gifted to us, I was so happy to realize that you are so acutely aware of the importance of shifting to the green energy. I am so happy to know that your record in Gujarat in green energy field is second to none.
Solar Energy Bonanza: More than 200 days a year, India receives intensely powerful sunlight
across the nation. If pursued with zest, India can become the “Green Energy Capital”of the world. Why not to exploit the greatest resource that we possess? We can create huge solar farms in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan and the Deserts of Kutch installing hundreds of thousands of solar panels generating thousands of GW of electricity.
We can also generate thousands of megawatts of electricity creating thousands of Thermal Solar Farms.
Denmark is the leader in off-shore wind mills. When we went to Denmark few years ago, we saw hundreds of windmills all across its beaches. India has 7500 kilometers of shoreline. We can install thousands of windmills across these shorelines except its popular beaches and generate huge amount of electricity.
All this will create the skilled workforce of millions of young technocrats and technicians that you are determined to create!
Our educational institutions must reflect the need of the nation. Teach green energy courses starting from high schools to colleges across the nation.
Your other agendas for India’s progress are laudable. Bringing back the black money stashed abroad, eliminating corruption, education of young people and women, increasing tourism, security for women, infrastructure upgrading, encouraging and empowering India’s youth, universalizing of secondary school education, launching massive Clean River Program especially that of Ganga, drafting and enforcing the Uniform Civil Code, working for the abrogation of Article 370, making our defense requirement indigenous and self sufficient, friendly foreign policy with all countries, and a host of other programs in BJP manifesto are indeed vitally important and timely.
I am sure your government will launch and pursue these programs with up-most vigor under your careful watch. Though living in America for many years but being Indian first and Indian last, myself and many of my friends wish your government the best wishes for a thriving success in your noble endeavor.
Thanking you very much sir,
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, USA
Author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org