SV: Nationalisms

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Thu Aug 10 09:38:22 UTC 2000

Narayan S. Raja [SMTP:raja at IFA.HAWAII.EDU] skrev 10. august 2000 03:24:

Since this is definitely not classical Indology, I'll send the following
answer, but I don't think we should continue with this debate on the list.

> Sorry, but this "runaway demography" comes
> simply from a reduction in death rates.
> Just after the British went away,
> India's death rate per 1000 in 1950 was 27.4.
> India's death rate per 1000 in 1997 was  8.9.

This is not entirely correct. I'll give you some figures from Livi-Bacci's
"Concise History of World Population."

                India   Birth rate (%)          Death rate (%)          Difference
1950            358     -                       -
1960            442     4.4                     2.3                     1.1
1970            555     4.1                     1.8                     2.3
1980            689     3.6                     1.5                     2.1
1990            853     3.3                     1.2                     2.1
[1997           950?    2.7                     0.9                     1.8]

This shows a decrease both in the birth rate and the death rate (your own
figures in []). There is still good reason to talk about a runaway
demography. Why the demography is "runaway" is of course another matter.
But you do have a surplus of births compared to deaths, and that is what

> While the British were able to maintain a
> "stiff upper lip" regarding the atrociously
> high death rate in India, it dropped sharply
> after the natives took charge.  Too bad from
> an environmental point of view, but unavoidable.

In the same period, a similar trend took place in China. By 1990 Chinese
mortality level was less than one third of its previous level (down from
2.2 to 0.7). This suggests that the British are not necessarily to be
blamed for the death rate. According to Livi-Bacci, the differences between
India and China are due to the different demographic policies adopted by
the two countries. India has made mistakes that reduced the effectiveness
of her population control program, such as the use of coercion which
brought the program into disrepute. Consequently, the Chinese have done
better. I would assume that the reduction in deaths depends upon various
factors such as the introduction of new medication developed after the war,
better health care etc.

> > Other things being equal, I believe
> > that India would have done much better for herself if she had managed
> > stabilize her population at, say, 300-350 millions.
> India's population in 1950 was already 361 million.
> So, only by magic could the population be stabilized
> at 350 million while the death rate dropped by two-thirds
> (from 27.4 to 8.9).

It actually happens that populations decrease! My estimate of the "ideal"
population for India is based on the - admittedly amateurish - idea that
India has a smaller area than the US, whereas the US already have a
population of some 250 millions. If you increase that population by another
100 million, I find it difficult to see that you could uphold a prosperous
society at least at the level that the US now enjoy. (There are already
many poor people in the US). I believe India could have been moderately
prosperous with a population of 300-350 million. If the population goes
beyond that, things get seriously difficult. But I'll admit that there are
knowledgeable people who think differently.

> Ultimately, all of us third-worlders are suffering
> from "overpopulation" due to the lack of new
> continents to steal from the natives.
> Europe (which, without Russia, is comparable
> in size to India) has a population of about
> 300 million.  But if you bring back all the people
> of European descent from North and South America,
> Australia, etc., Europe would have a population
> of 700 to 800 million -- quite comparable to
> India.

This is perfectly true. My own country (now with a pop. of 4.2 million)
sent off 400,000 immigrants to the US at a time when the total pop. here
was some 2-2.5 millions. If they all come back to the old country, we can
easily double our population!

> In other words, third-worlders have a
> "runaway population", while Europe has
> a "population that ran away."

That is well put! :-)

Best regards,

Lars Martin

Dr. art. Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo
Phone: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax 1:  +47 22 32 12 19
Fax 2:  +47 85 02 12 50 (InFax)
Email: lmfosse at

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list