My main purpose in writing this book has been to give an intelligible account of India and its contemporary problems, seen mainly from a population point of view. I have been particularly motivated by a number of common views about India which have repeatedly been expressed to me. How often, returning from a stay there, I have been asked, 'Don't you find India terribly depressing?' — A question impossible to answer; naturally there are in India scenes of appalling human deprivation to be witnessed and, if one has followed the country's fortunes over the years, one cannot feel enthusiasm about the pace of change. Yet a person who knows only the miseries of India does not know India. I fear I may add something to this false picture since the other things that make the experience of India vivid, indeed moving, have little place here.
Another question I often face is, 'Isn't India hopeless?' This question is posed sometimes by people whose interest in India is merely casual. But I have also encountered it in governmental circles and international agencies among people concerned with aid. I usually ask what the question really signifies; after all India is going to continue to exist. When pressed those who put the question often admit that they really mean they do not wish to contemplate India's problems for any length of time. Readers of this book will not be given any easy reassurance; but I hope they will derive a sense that, while the problems are great, they can be made less so. I am not in the business of feeding the public's appetite for nightmares which so many books on population themes do. India's situation calls for, and repays, analysis, not alarmism. A further purpose is to clarify some of the issues about the population question itself. What is the point of making efforts at development when everything is absorbed by the growth of numbers? Or, why bring down the death rate, it only means more people? These misconceptions are put in their place. Family planning is often said to have 'failed' in India — that too is a misconception, even if 'success' has not been conspicuous either.
The book has five parts. The first chapter gives some background to the problem of population change and the way it has occurred, mainly outside India. The second looks at current and future characteristics of India's population. The third examines the family planning programme. In the fourth the interrelationships between economic development and population change are explored, the character of economic progress in India and how population has affected it and been affected by it. In the last . . .