When you wake up in the morning and learn that the world population has reached 7 billion, the feeling isn’t that joyous: I slept the previous night with voices of news anchors blaring about the babies dying in West Bengal ringing in your head. How am I to celebrate this landmark in human civilization when thousands of Indian babies are dying of hunger and malnutrition? Maybe I will buy a twenty-rupee pencil at the traffic signal from that beggar girl who everyday promises that I will be granted all my wishes. On such an occasion what do I wish for?
But someone is not as confused as I am. Mayawati’s government that enjoys an unrestrained power in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the second-most populous country in the world, has a better plan – one that would kill two birds with one stone. Her officials planned that they would appoint seven girls born on Monday to symbolize the 7-billion mark. So they strategically pick baby Nargis, who was born at 7:20 am at Maal Community Health Center, 40 km from Lucknow as the 7th Billion Indian Baby. One must congratulate the team for picking one child in Lucknow where reportedly 356 babies are born in a day. It must have been quite a task, but certainly worth the effort considering the importance of resurrecting a female colossus in state where the child sex ratio (0-6 years) is 899, below the national ratio of 913. UP and India cares about its girl child was the collective message that was successfully transmitted on wires, TV channels and online. However, there was another message to the seventh billion baby by India’s one billionth girl child – Astha who was born at 12:35pm on May 11, 2000 in Delhi. Eleven-year old Astha, which means faith in Hindi, articulately talked about her loss of faith in the ‘system’. Poignant yet eerie, her words were beyond her years. When asked by the NDTV anchor about what promises the government had made when Astha was born, she said, “I was promised free education. The education is free, but by the school, not the government.” Her biggest concern was that with the accelerated population growth there will be no homes for people. Yet, she wished good luck to all the 7th billion babies in the world.
A UN report says that by 2025 the earth population will hit 8 billion mark. Like Nargis and Astha, 42,000 children are born in India each day, what world will they inherit? Even the thought puts one to a gut wrenching shame.