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DOES INDIA NEED A POPULATION CONTROL ACT?

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Manav Asrani writes about the merits of having a legislative solution for India’s population problem.

It was 15th August 2019, the day of independence. The Prime Minister was giving the speech at the Red Fort. In his speech he addressed a very important issue. An issue, which the country is being facing since its independence or even before that. He spoke about ‘Population Explosion’. The PM said “There is one issue I want to highlight today: population explosion. We have to think, can we do justice to the aspirations of our children? There is a need to have greater discussion and awareness on population explosion,” Keeping up with BJP’s hyper nationalism and patriotism, he also said that those who follow the concept of small family, contribute to the development of the nation and it is a form of patriotism. His speech was very much welcomed by the leaders of the opposition party. They appreciated PM’s concern over the growing population and stressing over having a small family. This appreciation by the opposition parties especially by the INC was very important because it came during the period when Article 370 was abrogated from the constitution and a lot was being said against the ruling party and its fascism.

India has been facing this problem since years and this problem has cropped or increased other problems like unemployment, poverty, low literacy rate, etc. Well I must say that it is not for the first time this issue is being addressed by the government. Steps have been initiated since 1951. Some steps have been moderate and some have been radical. Recently a bill which was titled as ‘THE CONSTITUTION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2020’ was introduced as a private member bill by Anil Desai on the floor of Rajya Sabha on 7th February 2020. In this article first I will talk about the history and the previous steps taken by the government to control the growing population and next I will talk about whether the country really needs a population control act or not.

India has been the second largest country in terms of population since its independence. Talking about the history, it is very interesting to note that India was the first developing country in the world to implement a family planning scheme in 1951 with the objective being “reducing the birth rate to the extent necessary to stabilize the population at a level consistent with the requirement of the National economy.. It is called as National Family Welfare Programme. This scheme has been very beneficial and successful in my opinion. There has been awareness among the people regarding the use of contraceptives and benefits of a small family which is very much visible from the statistics available (one of them being that the use of contraceptives tripled among married woman from 1970 to 2009). Next let me talk about one of the major steps taken by the Indira Government in 1976, the decision to sterilize couples, famously known as nasbandi. This was a very radical approach by the government do deal with population explosion. Millions of men and women, especially in rural areas were forcefully sterilized during the period of emergency (1975-77). Between June 25, 1975 and March 1977, an estimated 11 million men and women were sterilized. Another 1 million women were inserted with IUDs. People were bribed for getting sterilized or motivating others to do so. This resulted in the death of many. Then during 1980s, “Hum Do Hamare Do” (We Two Ours Two) was popularised through mass campaign. The National Health Policy was adopted. The National Population Policy came in 2000 with long-term objective of stabilizing population by 2045. Now next major step that the government is likely to initiate is through a constitutional amendment in the DPSPs or make a law to control this population explosion.

Talking about whether the country really needs a population control act or no, it’s important to know whether the parliament can implement such a law or not. Although we are a sovereign nation, there are some international organizations or international treaties, agreements that put some kind of restriction over our sovereignty for general good. Let me tell you that India is a signatory to International Conference on Population and development declaration (ICPD) and since it is a signatory to it, India has promised the international community that it will honor the individual right of the couples to decide freely the number of children they want to have and also decide spacing between the births of their kids. But even if India decides to ignore this declaration and decides to have a law regarding reproduction rights, we need to first look at certain statistics  from https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/india-population/. As I write this article, India’s population is 1,375,163,861 second most populated country in the world. The fertility rate, which measures the average number of children per woman, in 2000 it was 3.48 while currently is 2.24. A fertility rate of 2.1 is considered to be ideal and optimum. Thus we are seeing a drop in the number of babies being born in our country. India’s share of world population is reducing slowly. In 2010 it was at 17.74 while now it has reduced to 17.70. The yearly percentage change is reducing steadily. In 2000 it was 1.83% while now it’s just 0.99%.

Fertility Rate of Each and Every Country as per 2019

As the fertility rate is decreasing and in the next 10 years, looking at current stats, I am pretty sure it will come near 2 or even below it. The yearly percentage change in population has seen a drastic change. Whatever policies and steps that the government has initiated before has shown some positive response over a period of time. By implementing a law regarding two child policy, a drastic drop in the fertility rate will be observed which can be fatal for the country’s growth. It is accepted that over population puts a strain on country’s resources. Problems like unemployment and poverty exist because the state is unable to cater the needs of the ever increasing population. But from the stats available, it is pretty much clear that there has been some sort of awareness among Indians regarding the benefits of small family.  One of the main reasons why countries like China withdrew their population control policy because of the fact that in a longer run, it did more harm than good. The manpower they needed for country’s development was becoming scarce.

In my opinion, there is no need to have a population control law for our country. The steps taken to control population before have shown some positive response. If the government is reluctant of having such a law, I feel it should be implemented only for certain number of years like 10-15 years or else it will have a negative impact on the country, the economy and the growth.

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