Tracking the burgeoning population

A quaint institute located in the heart of the city conducts nationwide research exclusively on population. Sanchayan Bhattacharjee tracks International Institute of Population Sciences

A quaint institute located in the heart of the city conducts nationwide research exclusively on population. Sanchayan Bhattacharjee tracks International Institute of Population Sciences

With more than 1.2 billion people, one of India’s biggest strengths is its human resource. On the other hand, a burgeoning population is also the direct or indirect cause of a number of problems in the country. Thus it becomes important to not just keep track of the population, but also analyze it in every possible way. “We expect it to cross 1.6 billion by 2050 when the majority of our population will be over 60 years of age. When dealing with so many people, there will be a number of health, energy, food and water issues, for which we need to start preparing,” says Faujdar Ram, director, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS). Ram is part of a team at the institute conducting a research project which looks at a long term perspective of the Indian population scenario. “By 2050, Uttar Pradesh itself is expected to touch a population of 400 million people. Along with the natural resource dynamics, we are also looking at how cities will handle the pressure,” informs Ram.

This study is one of the many conducted at IIPS. Since population is a relatively unique subject of research, most of the projects conducted here are funded by the government. “Every student gets a fellowship of at least Rs 5000 per month from the government. Our research projects generally deal with age, health, migration and urban issues in the wider framework of population,” explains Ram.

Nutrition is an important subject in population research since it has significant impact on the people and the economy of a country. Sayeed Unisa, professor, IIPS who worked on a yearlong research titled ‘Comprehensive Nutrition Survey in Maharashtra’, says, “Children from Amravati, Aurangabad and Nashik were found to be worse off from a nutritional point of view. The project focused on children of up to two years of age. In Nashik, 32 per cent of the children were stunted, 29 per cent were underweight and more than 10 per cent were both severely stunted and underweight.” When compared with the 2005 National Family Health Survey, the present study found considerable variations in the nutritional status of children in six administrative divisions of the state. IIPS has subsequently taken up a follow up study to understand the factors that have led to under nutrition in these places.

‘The District Level Household and Facility Survey’ was yet another project conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in collaboration with IIPS. The objective of this nationwide study was to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of various National Rural Health Mission programmes at the district level. One of the many findings of the study suggested that, more than 30 per cent girls in West Bengal were married off before their legal age as compared to 0 per cent in Goa. “The idea is to come up with estimates which indicate the immunisation coverage, contraceptives, family planning effectiveness etc. among the population and thus determine their health needs,” says Laishram Ladusingh, professor, who is part of the project. These surveys help in setting benchmarks to evaluate the progress of the country and the areas where improvement is needed.

According to RB Bhagat, professor, Migration and Urban studies, India receives around 70 billion dollars in remittances every year. “Considering the huge amount, we were interested to find out the distribution of this money among our various states,” he says. Thus Bhagat along with other faculty members undertook to study the international migration patterns in Gujarat. “We covered around 10,000 households including the non immigrant ones,” he says. While the data collection of this project is complete, the findings are yet to be released.

Since most of the research conducted at IIPS involves a huge sample size, there are a number of challenges yet to be overcome. While it is difficult to collect data in urban areas like Mumbai where adult members in several households are away at work, places like Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh present physical difficulties. Another challenge according to Ram is to ensure that people give accurate information. “It is necessary to convey the message that we are not from the government. Otherwise people often give wrong information to get benefits from government schemes,” he says. However, in the last few years, technology has helped expedite the process. Data is now directly entered into a laptop and transferred to the institute.

IIPS provides critical data to the government and other agencies to ensure better customisation, targeting and implementation of different welfare programmes. Although there are around 300 post graduate students at the institute, only 15-20 seek jobs every year. “Most of them secure fellowships from different organisations to continue research work,” signs off Ram.

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