The Vice President, M Venkaiah Naidu today cautioned that development challenges will become more difficult to resolve as the population size increases.
He was addressing the gathering virtually after releasing two reports; ‘Status of Sex Ratio at Birth in India’ and ‘Elderly Population in India: Status and Support Systems’, brought out by the Indian Association of Parliamentarians for Population and Development (IAPPD) in New Delhi today.
Lauding IAPPD for its focus on population and development, he said: “We must all recognize the connection between population and development” and referred to the projections made by experts that India’s population is expected to grow to 1.52 billion by 2036 (by 25 per cent with reference to 2011).
Referring to the delivery of basic services, he said the country was facing many challenges with 20 per cent of population below the poverty line and an equal proportion illiterate. In this context, he stressed the need for people to plan their families.
As Prime Minister Narendrabhai Modi had said in his Independence Day speech last year that those who follow the policy of small family contribute to the development of the nation, the Vice President said.
M Venkaiah Naidu asked political parties and people’s representatives to focus on this vital issue and educate the people.
Calling for the revival of India’s age-old joint family system, he said that our family system must serve as a model for other countries to emulate.
M Venkaiah Naidu observed that in India’s traditional Joint family system, our elders enjoyed a place of reverence and they were the custodians of righteousness, traditions, family honour and samskara. He added that in joint families, children enjoy the tender care, love, affection, patronage, wisdom and guidance of the older generations.
The Vice President said that he was extremely distressed by reports of neglect, abandonment or abuse of the elderly. ‘This is a completely unacceptable trend’, he said and added that it is the sacred duty of the children to take care of the elderly in their families.
M Venkaiah Naidu called for equipping our elderly population with new age skills so they may lead fuller professional lives and keep contributing to nation building. ‘We must remember that if young are the ‘Demographic Dividend’, seniors are ‘Demographic Bonus’ for the nation’, he added.
The Vice President underscored the need to reorient our health system to address the specific needs of the elderly by providing medical benefits and ensuring insurance coverage.
Expressing concern that India has been grappling with a skewed sex ratio for a long time, M Venkaiah Naidu said that the sex ratio was a silent emergency and had serious consequences that will adversely affect the stability of our society.
M Venkaiah Naidu called for the strict enforcement of the PC-PNDT Act in light of the sex selective abortions that happen in the nation. He emphasized that the only way to end the menace of female foeticide is to create a society that is free from all forms of gender discrimination.
M Venkaiah Naidu called for moral education in schools so that children grow up to be responsible and sensitive citizens who view gender discrimination as immoral.
The Vice President called for strict implementation of laws banning female foeticide and dowry, while ensuring free and compulsory education for all girl children. He said that women must be given an equal share in the property so that they are economically empowered.
M Venkaiah Naidu said that we must also ensure adequate reservation for women in the Parliament and all state legislatures and urged all political parties to arrive at a consensus at the earliest on this important issue. He said it was unfortunate that the proposal was pending for a long time. “Country’s progress will be hampered if women are not empowered politically”, he added.
The Vice President stressed the need for greater attention from public representatives, policy planners, political parties and other important stakeholders on eradicating poverty, illiteracy and social evils like gender discrimination. He also wanted all State Governments to pay greater attention to these issues.
M Venkaiah Naidu urged the media to focus on issue of skewed sex ratio and the problems of the elderly.
He also appreciated the IAPPD, its chairman and former Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha, Prof. P.J. Kurien and experts Dr P.P. Talwar, Dr Sudesh Nangia and Dr J.S. Yadav, for bringing out the two insightful reports.
The Chairman of IAPPD and the former Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, Prof. P.J. Kurien, the Secretary of IAPPD, Manmohan Sharma, Dr Sudesh Nangia, Dr Prem Talwar and others were present on the occasion.