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JRD Tata Memorial Awards and Oration 2018 held at New Delhi; Oration delivered by Dr Rajiv Kumar

Posted on October 12, 2018

Demographic dividend needs to be harnessed for sustainable growth: NITI Aayog Vice Chairman at JRD Tata Memorial

The Population Foundation of India (PFI) on October 12 organised the JRD Tata Memorial Awards and Oration in the national capital. This year’s edition of the Oration, dedicated in the name of PFI’s visionary founder JRD Tata, was delivered by NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Dr Rajiv Kumar who presented the 6th JRD Tata Memorial awards to three states, one Union territory and 10 districts for showing proven and sustained efforts in stabilising population levels.

He also released a study commissioned by PFI, entitled ‘Cost of Inaction in Family Planning in India: An Analysis of Health and Economic Implications’ (COI). The study projects the opportunity costs of inadequate investments in family planning over 15 years (2016 – 2031), and the potential economic benefits if family planning programmes are fully and efficiently implemented.

Speaking about the JRD Tata Memorial Awards, PFI Executive Director, Poonam Muttreja, said, “The JRD Tata Memorial Awards and Oration are a tribute to our founder JRD Tata and his vision to promote gender sensitive population, health, and development strategies. We believe that Family Planning has to be at the centre of national development agenda to help achieve sustainable development goals. By investing in family planning, we are making smart investments for our families to be healthy, productive and prosperous.”

At the event, Dr Kumar said that India needs to harness its demographic dividend to maintain a high and sustainable growth. “India currently accounts for 17.74% of the world population. This number is expected to settle at around 16.94% in 2050. On the other hand, our share of the world’s land area is only about 2.5% and we have approximately 4% of the world’s water resources at our disposal. We face a real challenge. The key clearly is in making a massive effort at human resource development,” he said.

Dr Kumar further stressed that important conditions that need to be met to realise the demographic dividend are women empowerment and child nourishment. “One of the most important conditions for realising the demographic dividend is women’s empowerment. Women constitute half the country’s population, shoulder three-fourths of the responsibility to run society, yet get only one-fourth of the respect they deserve. This needs to be changed by focusing on '4 Es' – Educate, Employ, Empower and Enjoy," he said.

He also made the case for adequate investments in family planning being essential for overall growth and development of the country. “Keeping the large young population in mind, we need to provide quality sexual and reproductive health services with the right messages on reproductive choices. A 2014 study by leading economists found that ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health - which includes family planning - would yield a phenomenal return of USD 150 for every dollar invested. Every 1% reduction in fertility is likely to increase GDP by 0.25%. Moreover, every 7 dollars spent on family planning over the next four decades are likely to reduce global CO2 emissions by more than a ton. These are some of the undeniable gains of a coherent and well implemented population policy,” Dr Kumar said.

6th JRD Tata Memorial awards were won by the states of Chhattisgarh, Punjab, and Sikkim, the Union Territory of Chandigarh, and districts of Hamirpur (Himachal Pradesh), Jagatsinghapur (Odisha), Baksa (Assam), Ernakulam (Kerala), the Nilgiris and Nagapattinam (Tamil Nadu), Akola (Maharashtra), Aizawl (Mizoram), Upper Siang (Arunachal Pradesh) and Phek (Nagaland).

The awards, instituted by PFI, recognise performance in the areas of family planning, age at marriage, fertility rates, maternal and child health and nutrition, anaemia, sex ratio, neonatal, infant and child mortality rates, women’s education and empowerment, gender-based violence, and water, sanitation and hygiene. This is in line with PFI’s commitment to address population policies through a comprehensive women’s empowerment and human rights lens.

Dr. Pawan Kumar Chamling, Chief Minister of Sikkim, who received the award on the behalf of Sikkim, thanked the PFI for recognising the strides made by the state. “Sikkim has transformed from a sleepy backwater area to a model state. The state has seen per capita income grow at a considerable rate while all poverty indicators have declined,” he said.