Firstly Farming in India is currently very unproductive. To understand why this happens, you have to understand some history. India was even from its very existence in history a huge sub continent ruled big and small kingdoms, with Agriculture as its main source of work. And Farmers were always taxed in return for many things. Add to this shortage of rainfall, droughts and other occasional problems forced farmers to mortgage their lands for some money to rich landlords. These problems went to an extent till farmers were almost synonymous with slaves. The Naxal terrorism problems has deep roots in this history.
I have many friends who come families of farmers. And you can still hear the old stories. The lands get passed on from generation to generation through inheritance. And every time the land is inherited it gets divided among sons. So with every generation each person gets lesser and lesser land to harvest on. With growing population you can now image with each generation, number of farmers increase but the land available for farming decreases. This makes farming a highly unproductive business in India.
This is coupled lack of modern logistics to distribute, modern machinery or harvesting and farming. All these stories of rotting grains that your hear of is because, the crops are often sold to local middlemen with farmers often given an unfair deal. The middle men take real hefty cut, and both the farmers and consumers suffer. Also middle men again sell to places called 'mandis' which inturn are very inefficient ways of distribution.
The policies ran by Government of India utmost work as patch jobs. There is no long term vision to improve the situation of farmers. Providing subsidized pump sets, lower interest loans etc only give the farmer a longer rope to hang himself. There are no incentives to bring in larger agricultural reforms, to modernize distribution, to eliminate middle men(In fact in the recent FDI debate, some MP's actually sided with the middlemen, can you believe that?), to improve logistics, cut corruption, fight bureaucracy, bring in mass farming techniques, infrastructure and equipment.
Agriculture policies are just one election to the next bait to get farmer votes.
Even until say a generation and half back. During my Dad's times it was quite usual for couples to >10 kids. It was considered a sign of pride!
Apart from that there are other social issues. Social security is a huge problem in India, Pension is a cruel joke. Other form of income during old age include rent from real estate or meagerly savings. Amidst all this kids are considered as a somebody who can take care of their parents.
For the west this might sound strange, but parents are a integral part of the family. In fact family means Parents, siblings and their kids included.
In all this Boys are considered cash cows. Because they are perceived as somebody who can earn and feed them in old age. Girls are considered money drains, as they marry and go away to their husbands home, to never return or contribute much. There is also a huge problem of dowry(Mandatory gifts given to girls during marriage) which makes girls look like burdens. The Indian middle class is also shy to send Girls to work.
All this contributes to 'reproduce until you get a boy' problem. The rest is left to your imagination. Especially when more population leads to more of it, merely by its very dynamics.
So you see the problem isn't that simple. Sometimes its genuine. Imagine you are old, need food, clothes, medical care. You need money for it, you see your neighbor get all the help from his son. While you get no help from your daughters.
The natural reaction is ... 'If at all, I had a son... I wouldn't be in this state today'.
These problems are not that simple to solve.
But I can see how there might be a long way to go - if women could work, they could provide and so on...
There are also security issues. Indian cities haven't been very safe for women especially for women working at night. Crimes against women are common. Also there lack of affordable places like creche's and day care centers for kids preventing women from working post maternity. Most working women quit jobs for this very reason alone.
Secondly, even if women work. The situation in India is worse enough to make them spend that money on their own selves and their families, than their parents.
But I agree, with you that women must be encouraged to work more.
Only 60 years ago it was common in the western world that women had to stay at home to take care of the family and household chores. I don't think it was only feminism that changed that, but also technology. For example washing machines probably saved a lot of time (even a bachelor can wash their own clothes these days). Not sure how widespread access to such technology is in India?
GDP per capita is about $3500, adjusting for PPP. 31% of the population has improved sanitation.
So, washing machines are not very widespread.
>Imagine you are old, need food, clothes, medical care. You need money for it, you see your neighbor get all the help from his son. While you get no help from your daughters.
That's incredibly sexist. As far as I can tell, it is in fact the other way around. Their sons usually try to avoid that responsibility and it is their daughters who actually spend time with them and try to work out their problems
Alas just 'spending time' doesn't solve all problems. You need somebody who can 'spend money' too. This is not an anti-girl rant. This is the saddest reality of our country. The middle class is overly male chauvinist and doesn't like sending women to work. Once married, the girl contributes literally nothing financially to her parents.
Firstly this is not a problem among the rich and the poor. Because Rich have money and poor don't mind women working.
Its the middle class which is in this problem. If you turn blind eye to this root cause. You can give as many moral lectures as you want on why this is wrong. Nothing will change.
Because people know deep inside them old age is imminent, and they will need money/financial support to survive then. Bitter truth!
So when I describe my parents take on dowry (i.e. no dowry, we want a daughter, not a daughter in law etc), people think I am joking.
(I don't remember why I am writing this anymore)
>You would be surprised to hear that my friends (girls and guys alike) don't believe me and think I am joking.
Not surprising at all. In fact I'm finding it difficult to take you seriously. Given how many mouths you have to feed. Your family will be really big which 2 parents + 2 parents + 2 kids(assuming) + you and your wife. That's almost 8 people. Maintaining a family of 10 people, their expenses, bills, health care is a costly business, Even if you have your own BIG home. Else add rents et al to additional expenses. Plus you have kids education + their expenses. And your own family expenditure. Unless you are earning really huge I don't see you will make it through.
Therefore even though you may want to. But still you may not be able too.
>>In their opinion, I don't know what I am talking about, and will not care about anyone once I get married. TL;DR, People, even daughters laugh at you when you promise to take care of their parents equally as your own.
They are just trying to deal with reality.
The Hesperian's "Where There Is No Doctor"  offered another explaination - in some parts of the world people are too poor to not have many children. A child needs few years to grow, and then it can work for the family. This makes children an investment that returns itself with profit after few years, and it is good for the family to get many of them.
 - http://hesperian.org/books-and-resources/
The actual reasons really are 'reproduce until you get a boy' or 'have as many boys as you can' so that you can have something depend on in old age.
You would because, you are not 60 and you are not being forced to do small time jobs for paltry income to just afford food, clothing, shelter and medical care.
A person goes and works small time jobs, struggles to put food on his table. He spends almost nothing. Struggles to pay rents, or buy clothes. All this while his hand and legs have no strength. Yet his peer who has a son eats dal, roti and kabab at home watching television.
Go and all the best trying to lecture that person, why not having a son was OK.
Honestly if you were to ask me, merely the thought of being that person scares me. I would save like hell now, have enough money to feed me until I die than be in such a position when I am 60.
Honestly, the thought of becoming either(small time job vs comfortable living with son oldman) of those old persons scare me. I would rather be an oldman, more like Ron from "Into the wild"(think lifestyle business), than either of these. Unfortunately, i can't rely on Federal Health care or pension for that.