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Murli Deora on population 17 May 1993

THE EARTH TIMES

MAY 17, 1993

For developing countries, what happens at Cairo will shape the nature of society…’

Indian lawmaker urges leaders to tone down their rhetoric and act

BY ASHALI VARMA

New York: When Murli S. Deora was growing up in post-independent India, he remembers that even then there was an awareness of the teeming millions living in poverty.  At that point –45 years ago –India had a population of 400 million.  His own family, of five brothers and two sisters felt the pressures of having too little.

“At that point India simply did not have the resources to do anything about this issue and today we are a nation of almost 900 million people,” he said last week after an appearance at PrepCom2 for the Population Conference. Deora is a member of parliament in India, and is visiting the UN along with fellow parliamentarians from different parts of the world.

“There is perhaps no issue which has greater impact on the future of this planet than the growth of its population.” Deora said.  “in 1968, Paul Ehrlich authored the best seller –’The Population Bomb.’ It discussed the rapid pace of population growth and the alarming implications of this trend, if it remained unnoticed.  But now, the bomb has well and truly exploded.  More than 80 percent of mankind survives in a state of near-total deprivation.”

As a successful politician (he has been mayor of Bombay, and is also head of the Bombay Congress Party), Deora understands the value of publicity, and the need to cultivate influential members of the journalistic community. “To make Cairo successful one must create awareness of he issue,” he said.  “It’s no use talking about resources or funding, we have to create a massive awareness among people and motivate them.  I heard Nafis Sadik’s speech on the conceptual framework for ICPD’s final document and I was really impressed by her.  She is a very dynamic women with a lot of zeal, determination and dedication.  She inspires and motivates one.”

The outcome of Cairo is especially important to Deora as he remembers the struggles he had to face while he was growing up, “Because there were so many of us and we were poor, I had to work in a textile mill and study at the same time to help support my brothers and sisters,” Deora said, “ I realized how much easier it would have been had my parents had only two kids instead of eight.”

Even while Deora was in school he dreamed of being able to do something positive to help his country and surprisingly the motivation came from a political leader very far from home.  In 1963, he came to the US on a student exchange program and met Robert Kennedy when he was Attorney General.  He asked him why he was in politics and Kennedy showed him a plaque which he kept on his desk with these: “Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream of things which never were and say why not?

Deora decided then, that by joining politics he could do something meaningful for his country.  Although, India was one of the first countries to accept the importance of a family planning program, Deora feels that not much has been achieved.

“We have a long way to go and we need more government commitment and resources,” he said.  As a parliamentarian he feels he can help to change policies and lobby for more resources for family planning programs.  But he also candidly acknowledges that politicians like himself must be judged by what they actually accomplish, as opposed to the rhetoric they tend to mouth.