Sudden interest in ‘population control’ in Assam and UP points to political bad faith

Source: The Hindu and The Indian Express

Relevance: Population control measures have to be rational and focus on welfare-based approach


States should tackle the socio-economic issues confronting India’s largely youthful demography rather than seeking a stringent approach towards population control.


new draft Bill prepared by the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Law Commission seeks to control the population by introducing a two-child policy.

Similarly, the Assam CM has also expressed concern over the “population explosion” amongst the Muslim community in the state. He has further reiterated that stringent population control is the only way forward to bring about development for the community.

Challenges with the population control policies:
  • Against Central government argument: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare argued in Supreme Court last year that “international experience shows that any coercion to have a certain number of children is counter-productive and leads to demographic distortions”.
    • The Government further confirmed that India was committed to its obligations under international law, including the principles contained in the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, 1994.
  • Against Court Judgements: Supreme Court in various cases upheld the right to reproductive freedom.
    • In Suchita Srivastava & Anr vs Chandigarh Administration (2009) case, the Court found that a woman’s freedom to make reproductive decisions is an integral facet of the right to personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21.
    • In K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017) case, the court held that the Constitution sees a person’s autonomy over her body as an extension of the right to privacy. This also includes reproductive rights. Further, the UP’s draft bill is in violation of the doctrine of proportionality mentioned in the Privacy judgment.
    • In the Devika Biswas vs Union of India (2016) case, the Court pointed that sterilization camps have a disparate impact on minorities and other vulnerable groups. The draft UP law could lead to a proliferation of sterilisation camps.
    • In the Javed & Ors vs State of Haryana & Ors (2003) case, the Court upheld a law that disqualified persons with more than two children from contesting in local body elections. But the UP’s proposed law is far more disproportionate.
  • Population “explosion” is a bogey: Many Indian states are moving towards achieving a total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.1 with voluntary population control measures. So, population explosion is not occurring in India.
    • For instance, In Assam where the government is talking about population explosion, the TFR has dropped from 2.2 in 2015 to 1.9 in 2020-21.
  • The Population Foundation of India has rightly pointed out that a strict limit on the number of children, like the two-child norm, will unleash a rapid increase in divorce and sex-specific abortions. It would be highly detrimental to the future of the nation.
    • One needs to remember that the child sex ratio of India has already been in a steady decline, dropping from 945 in 1991 to 918 in 2011.
  • Population control policies cannot be framed for one particular minority community. According to NFHS-4, in 22 states, the fertility rate of Muslims was lower than that of Hindus in Bihar. So, the government has to focus on better service delivery of modern contraceptive methods.
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