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SANSAD TV: ASSEMBLY DEBATES- POPULATION CONTROL POLICY

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Introduction:

On World Population Day, UP government unveiled draft Population policy 2021-30 for the state. The policy promotes two-child norm with incentives for those who adhere to it. Chorus has now been growing in several states to implement a similar policy to check population growth and optimum distribution of limited resources

Highlights of the draft bill on population control:

The new policy aims at:

  • Decreasing the total fertility rate from 2.7 to 2.1 by 2026 and 1.7 by 2030.
  • Increase modern contraceptive prevalence rate from 31.7% to 45% by 2026 and 52% by 2030.
  • Increase male methods of contraception use from 10.8% to 15.1% by 2026 and 16.4% by 2030.
  • Decrease maternal mortality rate from 197 to 150 to 98, and infant mortality rate from 43 to 32 to 22, and under 5 infant mortality rate from 47 to 35 to 25.

 Reasons for Population Explosion:

  • As the National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16) notes, women in the lowest wealth quintile have an average of 1.6 more children than women in the highest wealth quintile, translating to a total fertility rate of 3.2 children versus 1.5 children moving from the wealthiest to the poorest.
  • Women with no schooling have an average 3.1 children, compared with 1.7 children for women with 12 or more years of schooling.
  • The poor tend to have more children because child survival is low, son preference remains high, children lend a helping hand in economic activity for poorer households and so support the economic as well as emotional needs of the family. This is well known, well understood and well established.
  • Family health, child survival and the number of children a woman has are closely tied to the levels of health and education.
  • This reveals the depth of the connections between health, education and inequality, with those having little access to health and education being caught in a cycle of poverty, leading to more and more children, and the burden that state control on number of children could impose on the weakest.
  • There should be a clear understanding that offering choices and services rather than outright state control works best.

Focus areas:

  • To increase the accessibility of contraceptive measures issued under the Family Planning Programme and provide a proper system for safe abortion.
  • To reduce the newborns’ and maternal mortality rate.
  • To provide for care of the elderly, and better management of education, health, and nutrition of adolescents between 11 to 19 years.

 Incentives:

  • Promotions, increments, concessions in housing schemes and others perks to employees who adhere to population control norms, and have two or less children.
  • Public servants who adopt the two-child norm will get two additional increments during the entire service, maternity or as the case may be, paternity leave of 12 months, with full salary and allowances and three percent increase in the employer’s contribution fund under the National Pension Scheme.
  • For those who are not government employees and still contribute towards keeping the population in check, will get benefits in like rebates in taxes on water, housing, home loans etc.
  • If the parent of a child opts for vasectomy, he/she will be eligible for free medical facilities till the age of 20.

The Uttar Pradesh government plans to set up a state population fund to implement the measures.

Need for these measures:

  • Overpopulation exerts strain on resources.
  • It is therefore necessary and urgent that the provision of basic necessities of human life including affordable food, safe drinking water, decent housing, access to quality education, economic/livelihood opportunities, power/electricity for domestic consumption, and a secure living is accessible to all citizens.

 Issues and concerns associated with the Bill:

  • Experts have advised caution against any population policy that puts women’s health and well being at risk.
  • Given that the burden of contraception and family planning disproportionately falls on women, it is likely that female sterilisation will increase further.
  • Stringent population control measures can potentially lead to an increase in these practices and unsafe abortions given the strong son-preference in India, as has been witnessed in a few states in the past.

One-Child policy will not be effective in India

  • People are quick to point out that India is a country with a booming technology industry, one that relies on young people.
  • There is a fear that restrictions on having children will produce a shortage of the educated young people needed to carry on India’s technological revolution.
  • There are already well-documented problems with China’s one-child policy. Worst of all, there is a gender imbalance resulting from a strong preference for boys.
  • Millions of undocumented children were also born to parents who already had one child. These problems could come to India with the implementation of a two-child policy.
  • Most importantly, there is increasing evidence that India’s birth rate is slowing down to sustainable levels.
  • In 2000, the fertility rate was still a relatively high 3.3 children per woman. By 2016, that number had already fallen to 3 children.
  • Furthermore, India’s economy was growing 6% per year in the years leading up to 2019, more than enough to support modest population growth.

Population control measures for India:

  • Nudge: Government can come up with a law withholding benefits from three-child families. But this will work only if people actually understood the law, and had access to contraceptives and good health services.
  • Women’s education, awareness about family planning and easy availability of contraceptives would be more effective than coercive measures.
  • The budget for family planning would be better spent in greater adolescent care and awareness, programmes to reduce social and cultural taboos in using contraception, and behaviour change communication, especially for men.