The Population Problem

MT 60 Yrs

The Population Committee appointed in April 1953 by His Excellency the Governor has just published its findings. The Committee of twelve members (two more were added in October) had the following terms of reference: “To consider the problem presented by the present trend of increase of population of the colony in relation to its economic resources and potential productivity: and to investigate and report on the practicability of any methods of resolving the problem.”

The Committee is of opinion that Government should without delay take the necessary steps to control the growth of the population. To this end, it recommends Emigration and Family Planning.

The Committee also urges Government to give high priority to the question of increasing the productivity of the island, and to pay special attention to Housing.

The essence of the solution to the population problem may be expressed in the following way: How to make Mother Earth yield as much as possible and how to make Mauritian Mothers produce less. Emigration is only a palliative and the question of Housing a side issue. What really counts is how to increase fertility on one hand and check it on the other.

* * *

Interesting as the whole problem is, we want to throw some light on only one aspect of it, viz. how to control the growth of the population. But before coming to it, let us look for a moment at the changing face of Mauritius.

On the 31st of December 1954 our population was composed as follows:

General Population: 157,637

Sino-Mauritian Chinese Population: 19,159

Indo-Mauritian Population : 362,125

Total Population : 538,918

It is estimated that in 1972, the population of Mauritius will have reached 875,500 and by 1985, a million!

We can see plainly how rapidly the population is increasing from the fact that Government has been unable to build enough schools to house children of school-going age. We have right now the problem of education staring us in the face. Soon it will be an acute problem of Unemployment. Has someone given a thought to what the pupils now in Secondary Schools and Colleges will do on finishing their studies? And later, the problem of feeding the population is bound to follow.

No far-sighted Government can close its eyes to the inordinate increase of our population. Any democratic Government cannot have an easy conscience as long as the people are not properly fed, housed, educated and nursed hence, the alarm at the glow of a red light in the dim and distant future. And hence, the questions of Emigration and Family Planning.

* * *

Regarding Emigration, the Committee suggests the following countries: Madagascar, South Africa, East and Central Africa, South America (Argentina and Brazil), Canada and Australia… laying more emphasis on Madagascar.

White and coloured elements of our population may settle in Madagascar without giving rise to any fear. But what about Indians? Already Indians are being branded as a menace to the Grande Ile. Remember what Senator Castellani said while he paid a flying visit to Mauritius some time ago?

Canada and Australia are white countries. Black and brown and yellow people are most likely to feel unwelcome and unwanted in those places. Speaking of Africa, one cannot help thinking of apartheid and Mau-Mau and the rising tide of nationalism over the whole of the continent. Argentina or Brazil is so far away and so different; and then, in Argentina there is President Peron, the bugbear of many.

It remains to be seen how the Mauritian population will take to emigration, if and when a scheme of emigration comes into existence. But anyway the prospects cannot be said to be bright.

* * *

It remains to be seen also how the population of Mauritius will like the idea of Family Planning which involves birth control. The Report contains a good deal of arguments in favour of birth control but, we are afraid, those arguments will be of little avail when it comes to convincing Catholics. It appears that “the teaching of the Church as interpreted by the Papal Encyclical of January 8, 1931, denounces as sinful and unnatural any use of matrimony by which the production of offspring is evaded.” We won’t be surprised if there is a staunch opposition of Catholics to birth control.

The rest of the population may be made to appreciate Family Limitation and co-operate in its realization. The task may prove to be hard but is not impossible.

It would not be out of place to point out here the Indian attitude towards Family Planning. Dr S. Radhakrishnan, the Vice-President of India, quoted in the Report says: “Our need is desperate, the claims of humanity appeal to us and it is essential that we should do something for regulating population.” And he goes on to advocate birth control. Dr Radhakrishnan has quoted Mahatma Gandhi as having said. “I want limitation of population, but the method which we should adopt is the method of abstinence, austerity and self-control.”

If Government wants to put the recommendations of the Population Committee into practice, it will need the support and sympathy of the whole population.

We can foresee that a good part of the General Population will be discouraged to practice birth control and a good part of the Indian population will be averse to Emigration.

On the whole, we think that Family Planning will be more effective than Emigration in reducing our population and stabilizing it.

 

(Mauritius Times – 8th July 1955)

 

  • Published in print edition on 2 October 2015

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