May 6, 2005


A buoyant India dares to ask: Is a billion so bad? (Anand Giridharadas, MAY 4, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

Even as China backpedals from its draconian one-child policy, two large Indian states are preparing their own variations on the theme.

India's wealthiest state, Maharashtra, recently adopted a law requiring farmers with more than two children to pay a 50 percent surcharge on irrigated water.

And in March, the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh dovetailed population control with a crackdown on female abortion, approving grants of 100,000 rupees, or $2,300, to couples who have a single baby girl and then have themselves sterilized. The money will be paid to the child at age 20.

Jurisdictions across India are following suit. Some disqualify too-fecund parents from local government posts. State hospitals in Mumbai, the former Bombay, deliver two babies free but levy a charge of 500 rupees, or $11, for the third, said Ravi Duggal, a social worker who is contesting the fee in court.

The policies are a response to the sobering fact that, since India gained independence in 1947, its population has tripled, to 1.1 billion.

And its multitudes have ever-increasing effects on the world: With the economy blossoming, Indians' increasing purchases of automobiles, motorcycles and gas stoves are helping to keep global oil prices around $50 per barrel.

But the states' new population-control tactics come as a growing chorus of academics, business leaders and writers question the conventional wisdom from which population control flows: the very idea that a billion is too many.
The problem isn't people but state-size. You just can't govern a billion people effectively. India should encourage fertility but devolve power and eventually sovereignty to regions or even individual states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 6, 2005 9:34 AM

The US is approaching a third of a billion. Are you advocating that it too "devolve power and eventually sovereighnty to regions or individual states", too? If not, what makes us so special?

(Not that devolution is a bad thing. I'm of the opinion that several US states are just too big, and themselves should be broken up. Perhaps a Constitutional amendment limiting representation in the House to 15 or 20 members would do the trick...)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 6, 2005 11:15 AM


Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 11:47 AM

Repeal the 17th Amendment, enforce the 10th, and adopt the Swiss slogan "We will accept no judges who are not from our valleys."

Posted by: Luciferous at May 6, 2005 12:42 PM

The US will eventually devolve into several regions effectively independent from each other but that is a long way off.

India doesn't make any sense as a strong central nation. There is no national language. Even Hindi is spoken by only about 25 % of the population. Ethnicities are very different from state to state.

There is a religious unity but less so than in Italy or France.

Posted by: bart at May 6, 2005 7:13 PM