India is usually termed as one of the most populated country in the world but the misconception can be proved in the context of the country's urban population, where the fertility rate — the number of children born per woman has fallen to levels lower even than in countries like the US, France, Australia and New Zealand.
According to ‘TOI’ report, this concept however seems to be somewhat misplaced, at least in Data from the Sample Registration Survey (SRS) on the total fertility rate (TFR) shows that since 2006 the TFR in urban areas has touched 2 children per woman and from 2010 has fallen below that level. That means there aren't enough children born in Indian cities to replace the existing population of their parents.
For advanced economies, this 'replacement rate' is generally estimated at an average of 2.1. Because of the higher infant mortality rate (IMR) in developing countries, the replacement level fertility rate would be slightly higher and so Indian cities seem to have touched the point where the population would start declining in the absence of migration from rural areas.
"2.1 is more like an artificial number. During fertility change, the total fertility could go below 2.1 and become stable in a decade or two', says population expert Purushottam M Kulkarni, who recently retired from JNU.
Ravinder Kaur, professor of sociology and social anthropology at IIT Delhi, observes a similar pattern of low fertility across Asia and in catholic southern Europe.
"Although the IMR is considerably high as compared to the Western countries but it is not as distressing as it used to be and there is a general assurance among the population that the chances of a child's survival are higher as compared to the past decades and hence the fertility is low", added Kulkarni.
According to the reports, in 1971, the IMR was 82 (per 1,000 births) and total fertility rate was 4.1 for urban India.
Though the rural fertility rate of 2.5 is higher, it too has witnessed a sudden decline. In 1971, the rural fertility rate was 5.4, nearly double its present level and incidentally in 1952; India became the first country in the world to launch a family planning programme. The sustained government campaign, better access to healthcare facilities, higher female literacy as well as greater participation of women in the workforce have all sustained in lowering fertility rates in Indian cities. Recent trend say that couples nowadays prefer one child, although this is not a compulsion.