India is showing signs of cutting the umbilical code with the population boom as the second-most populous nation on the earth has shown decline in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) for the first time.

Quoting the fifth edition of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), the federal health ministry Nov. 24 stated that India's population rate has started to decline.

According to the survey, the average number of children per woman or the TFR in the country has declined to 2 in 2019-21 from 2.2 reported in 2015-16.

Under the UN norms, a TFR below 2.1 indicates that a generation is not producing enough children to replace itself. In India's urban areas, the TFR is as low as 1.6.

With most of the provincial states showing a TFR of less than two, the NFHS data showed that India is on its way to stabilizing its population. The current strength of India's population is 1.4 billion.

Despite the slide in TFR, India is not expected to experience a fall in its population for another 30 or 40 years as more than 30 percent are between the ages of 10 and 30 who will become fathers and mothers over the next two decades.

A UN in 2019 reported that India's population, accounting for 17.7 percent of global population of 7.8 billion people, will peak around 1.6 to 1.8 billion from 2040-50 and would overtake China, currently the most populous nation on the earth with 1.41 billion people.

An expert group report by the National Commission on Population under the health ministry in a July 2020 report projected that the numero uno status will come on India's way by 2031 - nearly nine years later than the United Nations projection of 2022.

This is for the time after the survey has seen below replacement fertility levels in India and is a significant shift for the country where women had an average of six children in the 1950s.
 

The NFH surveys are smaller as they are conducted at district-level. However, they are a pointer to the future. Only the decadal census is taken as the official marker of population trends in the country. The Census 2021 was due for release this year but was delayed due to the pandemic.

For the first time since survey started in 1992, the proportion of women exceeded men: there were 1,020 women for 1,000 men. In the last edition of the survey in 2015-16, 991 women stood for every 1,000 men.

India's move towards a predominately female population with a sex ratio at par with developed countries is also a remarkable for a country where millions of girls were killed due to preference for boys. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen shed light on the India's 37 million "missing girls" in 1990.

Indian parents historically prefer sons over daughters as girls are considered burdensome and costly due to fat wedding dowries.

Despite the apparent progress, the survey noted, the gender ratio at birth still remains at 929 women for every 1,000 men, indicating prevalence of the notorious sex selection and female foeticide practices in the country.

The current difference in sex ratio is attributed women's longer life expectancy and empowerment.

As an example of financial empowerment, the NFH survey found 79 per cent women operating bank accounts this time compared with 53 per cent earlier.

To bring the India's population under control, some of the provincial states like Uttar Pradesh in the North and Assam in the East have floated population control bills, which limit access to government jobs and other welfare measures to those who have more than two children.

The fall in fertility rate in India has occurred with the global slide in TRA which nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017 and expected to reach below 1.7 by 2100,.according to a study in the Lancet.

The world is going to be poorer by mankind.