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The BBC's Nick Blakemore
"Somewhat of a noisy welcome into the world"
 real 28k

Indian demographer Ashish Bose
"There is nothing to celebrate"
 real 28k

Thursday, 11 May, 2000, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
India hits the billion mark
Crowded train
India has 16% of the world's population but just 2.5% of its land
India's population has passed the one billion mark, according to the country's census commission.

However, experts see little cause for cheer because of diminishing natural resources and increasing poverty, illiteracy and unemployment.

News that the one-billionth baby had been born was officially announced in Delhi at 1232 local time (0702 GMT).

A billion reasons not to smile

The Pioneer newspaper
The United Nations said India joined China in the exclusive club on 15 August last year, but the Indian Government projected it for 11 May, 2000.

In a ceremony at Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital, officials feted the billionth child - a baby girl named Astha (Faith), born to Anjana and Ashok Arora.

Moment of reflection

India's government is using the occasion to highlight the problems caused by the growing population and the need to control it.

Astha, India's billionth member
The country has the second largest population in the world, and the authorities have found it difficult to persuade families to have fewer children.

As one senior civil servant put it, while the event is a matter of joy for the family, it also provides a moment of reflection for the government.

The United Nations has warned that if India's demographic growth doesn't slow down, there are likely to be shortages of food and water in the near future.

The spiraling population hampers every measure of progress India tries to achieve.

Food production has tripled since 1947, but many people are undernourished; literacy has increased, but so has the number of illiterate people.

The problem is particularly obvious in Bombay, where more than half of the 15 million people sleep in the streets or live in huts.

Demographic bomb

According to official figures, the population of Bihar grew 16.4% between 1991 and 2000, Uttar Pradesh recorded 23.3% growth, Madhya Pradesh's population rose by 21.4% while in Rajasthan, growth was around 22.4%.

India's health minister said the situation is "grim", but India can overcome it if it acts "responsibly". "If we delay, things can go beyond control," he said.

India's population growth
2% annual growth
30 people a minute
1,815 an hour
1.3 million a month
Death rate decline
India was the first country in the developing world to initiate a state-sponsored family planning programme in 1952 and official figures suggest a measure of success.

Since independence in 1947, the fertility rate has been cut from six births per woman of child bearing age to 3.5, while the birth rate has declined from 40 per 1,000 in the 1960s to 28 in 1995-96.

But at current growth rates, India's population will reach two billion in the later half of the next century.

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See also:

15 Jun 99 | Asia-Pacific
Asians eating better than ever
29 Jun 99 | World population
Planet feels strains of people pressure
04 Oct 99 | Sci/Tech
India passes population landmark
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