Population control measures in India – Explained, pointwise


Presently, India’s population stands at nearly 134 crore. According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs estimates, India’s population will reach 1.5 billion by 2030. Further, the population will hit 1.64 billion in 2050. This would make India become the largest populous country, overtaking China. To prevent that India introduced population control measures.

Apart from the Central government, many states also announced population control measures. A new draft Bill prepared by the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Law Commission seeks to control the population by introducing a two-child policy.

Earlier, the Supreme Court also upheld a Haryana government law barring persons with more than two children from contesting local body polls. But such population control policies can create imbalances in society and create lasting problems.

About Uttar Pradesh’s population policy
  • A new population policy released by the U.P government aims to bring fertility levels down. It also aims to create a population balance among various communities.
  • Similarly, a draft of the Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilisation, and Welfare) Bill, 2021 was published a few days ago and is currently open for public feedback.
    • It states that any citizen who “violates” a two-child policy would be barred from:
      • contesting local bodies polls,
      • applying for, or getting promotion in, government jobs, and
      • even receiving government subsidies.
India’s population control measures since Independence
First Five-year planIn 1951, India became the first among the developing countries to come up with a state-sponsored family planning program. It emphasized the use of natural devices for family planning.
Second Five-Year PlanThe number of family planning clinics was increased significantly. But since these clinics were largely set up in urban areas, they did not provide adequate results.
Third Five-Year PlanThe technique of copper- T was adopted. An independent department called the Family Planning Department was set up.
Fourth Five-Year PlanAll kinds of birth control methods (conventional and modern) were encouraged.
Fifth Five-Year PlanNational Population Policy was announced in 1976. Some important measures under this policy were,

  • Increasing the minimum legal age of marriage for girls and boys to 18 and 21 respectively.
  • Improving the literacy levels of females
  • Popularise family welfare programmes by using all forms of media
  • Forced sterilization was permitted, which was later on given up.
Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth PlansEfforts were made to control the population by determining long-term demographic aims
Ninth Five-Year Plan
  • In 1993, the government had established an expert group under the chairmanship of M.S. Swaminathan for formulating national population policy.
  • In 1997, the family planning programme was renamed the ‘family welfare programme’.
  • More substantive poverty reduction schemes and economic reforms have raised labour productivity and employment opportunities, allowed families to empower women and reduced fertility rates as rational choices.
Need for population control measures
  • At present, India hosts 16% of the world’s population with only 2.45% of the global surface area and 4% water resources.
  • The ecosystem assessments also pointed out that the human population’s role in driving other species into extinction and precipitating a resource crunch.
  • So, the population explosion would irreversibly impact India’s environment and natural resource base and limit the next generation’s entitlement and progress. Therefore, the government should take measures to control the population.
Challenges with the population control policies

A very high level of population growth can create imbalances, which make the job of the state more difficult, but the way the issue is being approached is problematic and will have unintended consequences.

  1. The approach is anti-poor, as they tend to have more children than middle-class people. Further, it is an anti-democratic practice that impairs a citizen’s right to choice and his/her sexual and reproductive rights.
  2. People have more children if there is a high prevalence of socio-economic issues such as infant and child mortality.
    • For instance, the National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16) reveals that women who have little access to health and education and those caught in a cycle of poverty, produce more and more children
  3. India’s TFR is about to reach the net replacement rate, or NRR, of about 2.1-2.2. So, India is not being threatened by a “population explosion”. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) and Census data show that in most states, and many urban areas, the total fertility rate (TFR) has already reached replacement levels (2.1).
  4. Challenge with the two-child policy: If the first two children are girls, one of them faces a risk to life immediately after birth, as their parents have a preference for male offspring. This will increase even more female infanticide in India.
    • According to the 2011 census, the UP had 908 females per 1,000 males, compared to the national average of 940 females per 1,000 males. The two-child policy is bound to increase this imbalance.
  5. Population control measures address yesterday’s problem: The population control measures might end up creating difficulties for tomorrow. Attempts to address the population issue through exclusionary policies will not improve the quality of life in states. So, this creates problems in the future.
  6. Against National Human Rights Commission order: The incentives/disincentives approach has been denounced in the past by the NHRC after such measures were introduced by several States in the 1990s and 2000s. i.e., Haryana, undivided Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha.
  7. Global examples: The stricter population control policy from other countries are not effective in the long run and also tends to skew the sex ratio. China, for instance, resulted in a significant gender imbalance because of preference for a male child.
Suggestions to control population
  1. If the states want to ensure a lower and stable fertility rate, they first need to strengthen medical infrastructure and focus on socio-economic issues.
    • The success of India’s southern states in containing population growth indicates that economic growth, as well as attention to education, health, and empowerment of women, work far better to disincentivize larger families than punitive measures.
  2. Adhering to the Cairo consensus: Cairo International Conference on Population and Development in 1994 stressed population. The Cairo Consensus called for the promotion of reproductive rights, empowering women, universal education, maternal and infant health to untangle the knotty issue of poverty and high fertility. The consensus also demands an increase in the rate of modern contraceptive prevalence, male contraception. States instead of releasing population control measures can start to adhere to implementing the Cairo consensus.
  3. Adopting Women-Centric Approach: Population stabilisation is not only about controlling population growth, but also entails gender parity. So, states need to incentivize later marriages and childbirth, promoting women’s labor force participation, etc.
  4. Seeing Population as a Resource rather than Burden:
    • As the Economic Survey, 2018-19, points out that India is set to witness a sharp slowdown in population growth in the next two decades.
    • Further, population estimates also predict a generational divide between India’s north and south, Fifteen years from now.
    • So instead of population control policies at the state level, India needs a universal policy to utilize population in a better way.
  5. India needs to look after the ageing population: According to the United Nation’s 2015 World Population Ageing Report, the number of people over 60 years in India is expected to increase from 116.55 million in 2015 to over 330 million by 2050. Population control measures will increase the dependency ratio in future. So, the government has to ensure adequate savings and insurance policies for the ageing population.

India’s TFRs have been reducing substantially across most States. To hasten the drop, States should tackle the socio-economic issues confronting India’s largely youthful demography rather than seeking neo-Malthusian approaches to population control.

Source: The Hindu, Business Standard

Print Friendly and PDF