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India's Population Trends, Challenges & Outlook

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  • 0:00 Biggest Democracy
  • 0:48 Growth Rate
  • 1:27 Religious and…
  • 2:41 Caste and Economic Divides
  • 3:50 Economic Emigration
  • 4:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

With well over one billion people, India faces problems unique to a country of its size, diversity, and history. This lesson looks out how the world's largest democracy handles these issues.

Biggest Democracy

For the foreseeable future, only two countries will have joined the one billion club for populations. China, the larger of the two, has received considerable fame for its policies of population management. India, on the other hand, has been considerably less iron-fisted with its control of its 1.2 billion population. Much of this lack of control has been a result of the fact that India is indeed a largely democratic state. After all, it is politically unpopular to suggest to would-be parents that one child is enough. However, as this lesson shows, India does not just face an issue of a huge population but also other concerns as is fitting of such a diverse country.

Growth Rate

On the surface of it, India does not have an impressive population growth rate, as the country only grows at 1.25% every year. However, when compounding a population of more than 1.2 billion, that means more than 15 million new births a year. To put that into perspective, that's like if a population the size of the United States, the third largest country by population, was added every twenty-two years. At that rate, India's population is set to overtake China's number of citizens by 2030. All of this is happening in a total land area smaller than the continental United States.

Religious and Linguistic Tensions

Just as you'd expect with neighbors being forced too tightly together for comfort, tensions are a real issue in India. Among the most pressing of these are linguistic and religious divides. India recognizes more than thirty languages, most of which have millions of speakers. However, there is a definite bias in favor of English and Hindi as overarching languages. English is a holdover from the colonial period, but contrary to popular belief, Hindi is not a universal language in India. In fact, it's as foreign in Tamil-speaking south India as Swedish would be for an Italian!

Often, those linguistic differences are compounded with religious views that don't quite add up. By far the two largest religious traditions in India are Hinduism, with around 80% of the population, and Islam, with around 15% of the population. However, there are long-standing frictions between these groups. With other groups like Sikhs, Buddhists, and Christians also striving for a voice in the chorus of Indian culture, new frictions emerge as groups are forced into closer contact. At times, these simmering tensions have boiled over into violence.

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