A private members’ Bill aimed at population control was introduced in the Lok Sabha recently. It stated that population rise is the most significant reason for India’s slow rate of development and argued for an immediate need for population control.
Objective to bring Population Control Bill –
- It aims to amend Article 47 by adding Article 47A to the Indian Constitution.
- It proposes that —
- The State shall promote small family norms by offering incentives in taxes, employment, education, etc., to its people who keep their family limited to two children.
- The State shall withdraw every concession from and deprive such incentives to those not adhering to small family norm, to keep the growing population under control.
Key provisions of Population Control Bill –
- Two-child policy — It proposes to introduce a two-child policy per couple.
- Incentivising adoption — Through various measures such as educational benefits, taxation cuts, home loans, free healthcare, and better employment opportunities.
- Birth spacings — It also proposes to ensure healthy birth spacing through measures related to augmenting the availability, accessibility and affordability of quality reproductive health services.
- Penalties for couples — Couples not adhering to the two-child policy will be debarred from contesting in elections; becomes ineligible for government jobs, subsidies on various facilities, goods given by the government, etc.
Criticism of the Bill –
- Undesirable ramifications — The coercive population control measures will further encourage sex-selection and unsafe abortion because of the collective desire for a male child, jeopardising women health and increasing illegal practices.
- Ultra-vires to Constitution — Breaches the rights guaranteed by Article 16 of the Constitution (fair opportunity in terms of public employment) and Article 21 of the Constitution (protection of life and liberty).
- Against UN resolution — Article 22 of the 1969 UN Declaration on Social Progress and Development ensures that the couples have a right to choose freely and responsibly the number of children they will have. Thus, to regulate the number of children in a family is a gross violation of human rights – the right to self-determination and an individual’s reproductive autonomy.
- Ambiguity — The bill is unclear as what would happen to a person who had a third child after being in a government job or if, for some reason, a person with two children remarried and had a third child.
- Unwanted childs — If a family is penalised for having more than two children, the third child may develop a sense of alienation, believing that s/he is an unwanted child.
- Discourage women participation — The biggest victim would be women who would be debarred in political participation.
- A validation of the majoritarian politics — The new bill argued that there has been a difference in Hindu and Muslim population growth rate in various states, underlining the view that a minority community is to blame for the population explosion. The bill is also being seen to strengthen political polarisation and facilitate the politics of majority appeasement.
Earlier attempts at population control –
- India was among the first nations to address its population problem as early as 1951, raising awareness about the ills of overpopulation.
- Population Control Bill or Two Child Policy has been introduced in the Parliament 35 times since independence, but not passed yet.
- In 2017, the Assam government passed the ‘Population and Women’s Empowerment Policy’. It specified that individuals with two children would only be eligible for public employment, and that present government employees had to adhere to the two-child family standard.
- In 2021, the Law Commission of Uttar Pradesh came up with a proposal where any person having more than two children will be barred from getting government subsidies. The draft bill in this regard is still under consideration.
Steps taken by government for population control –
- Mission Parivar Vikas — For substantially increasing access to contraceptives and family planning services in high fertility districts with TFR of 3 and above.
- New Contraceptive Choices — E.g., Injectable contraceptive and a new method of IUCD (Intrauterine Devices) insertion immediately after delivery i.e., post-partum IUCD has been introduced.
- Awareness building — The packaging for Condoms, emergency contraceptive pills, etc., has been redesigned so as to increase their demand alongside 360-degree media campaign.
- Compensation scheme for sterilisation acceptors — Health Ministry provides compensation for loss of wages to the beneficiary and also to the service provider (and team) for conducting sterilisations.
- Scheme for Home delivery of contraceptives by ASHAs: At doorstep of beneficiaries.
- Family Planning Logistic Management and Information System (FP-LMIS) — A dedicated software to ensure smooth forecasting, procurement and distribution of family planning commodities across all the levels of health facilities.
- National Family Planning Indemnity Scheme (NFPIS) — The clients are insured in the eventualities of death, complication and failure following sterilisation.
India’s TFR that was around 5.9% in 1950s dropped to 2% (NFHS 5) and slipped below the replacement level fertility (which is 2.1 children per woman) in 2021. This is a significant advancement in population control parameters, demonstrating that India does not requires a law for forced population control.
Forced population control measures have not shown promising results and have led to demographic imbalance in China. Thus, India should focus on strengthening public health infrastructure and raising awareness about the need for population control.
Source – The Hindu
QUESTION – Recently, a private member bill was introduced in the Parliament with respect to population control. Discuss the major features of the bill and examine if the country needs such a law going forward?