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From time to time, the alarm bell for ‘population control’ rings the loudest warning. This could be from international bodies or from within the Indian state. This time around, states like Assam and Uttar Pradesh and the Union Territory of Lakshadweep are taking the initiative to check the rise in their population. They have recognised the direct link between population growth and availability of resources viz. water, ecology-environment, electricity, hospitals/medical facilities to people etc. So, in the present session of parliament (July-Aug 2021) a private member bill was proposed by Rajya Sabha MP, Rakesh Sinha on population regulation that seeks to disqualify an MLA and MP or anybody from the local self-government, if he or she has more than two living children. On a larger scale, if the population of the world grows at this rapid pace, there will be land, food and water wars too.
Historically, the Communists and Left leaning intellectuals were silent on population growth. They somehow believed in Chairman Mao’s assertion that: ‘a large population is the wealth of a nation’. The tallest Russian leader, Stalin also echoed the same sentiment. His message to Russians was to go forth and multiply. The Indian Leftist intellectuals, occupying high positions in the establishment after independence, never looked at things objectively, based on the ground situation in India. Eventually, India has become the second largest populated country in the world, after China. Though this burgeoning population-growth is often said to bear a demographic dividend, the work-force in India, however, is not strong and sturdy enough. This is all due to resource crunch and malnourishment.
The anodyne equation: ‘effective birth control is directly connected to education’, is far-fetched. On the other hand, good education is possible only if parents limit the number of children since they could spend money on the quality education and health-care of their one or two children. They could also encourage their child’s talents viz. music, dance, drawing, painting, photography etc., (if any), that are outside the education curriculum. By limiting the number of progeny, family resources would not be drained. Each unit of a family’s welfare is contributory to the country’s welfare.
Culturally, India and China are somewhat similar in family values and systems. However, China has woken up to the fact that its population- increase is more of a deterrent than a stimulus to the nation’s development. So, the country applied stringent methods like: one or none policy to control birth rate. China’s: one-child-per-family, eventually succeeded. In any case, the program has its drawbacks. Like most Indians, the Chinese also prefer to have a male-child. The one-child policy led to widespread female infanticide and abortions in China. After becoming an economic giant with an ageing demography, China has relaxed its one-child policy to two/three (limited children).
Quintessentially, all religions are for propagation of human species. They are for procreation/pro-life. However, the majority Hindus in India, moved on with the time and adopted progressive family welfare methods to contain the number of children. Some minority religious groups (the Catholic church and Muslim fundamentalists) are still stuck with the formulations valid in the days of their prophets: where the world was underpopulated and when wars, epidemics and famines took a heavy toll of life. Even according to the last population census-2011, the rate of growth of population among Muslims was higher than among Hindus. So, if the minority community does not come on board, the country cannot progress. In this connection Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma’s efforts to talk to the minority groups about this issue, are a step in the right direction. Without the progress of the minorities, India would slow down—as the adage says — “The speed of a fleet is measured by its slowest vessel.”
Basically, India is a democracy. And is also a signatory against coercive family welfare measures, in the United Nations International Conference on Population in 1994 held in Cairo. India accepted a “voluntary” way of controlling the population. When this voluntary way would not work well in some of the states, the respective governments might rightfully take recourse to legislation. Shri Yogi Adityanath, the CM of Uttar Pradesh brought in the proposal of a new population policy draft Bill 2021 for control, stabilisation and welfare.
In that proposed Bill for Uttar Pradesh, many incentives and disincentives are specified. Those that abide by the two-child norm/policy get longer maternity and paternity leave with full salary, increase in employer’s contribution to pensions and two additional increments, subsidies to help purchase plots of land and rebates on utilities such as water, electricity and house tax etc., Here, it is pertinent to mention that the percentage of people working for the government is minuscule compared to the unorganised sectors. The women working in government and other jobs are privileged to get these perks whereas, the women at the basement level i.e., the daily-wage workers and labourers, who carry their child on shoulders should be assured of something; that is good health care, child-survival/child-mortality and contraceptives measures to have a gap between pregnancies. Otherwise, the right kind of justice is not done to all sections.
Finally, unless the Government at the Centre brings in a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) for all citizens in India, this population regulation will not come properly into effect. For, the largest/biggest minority group in India is still remaining under personal law that permits polygamy. No liberal democracy has different laws for different groups of people. So, mainstreaming of the minorities is needed, at least on issues of: marriage, divorce, maintenance and inheritance, before promulgating two-children policy. In conclusion a population regulation policy is the need of the hour to ensure equitable distribution of resources and for the healthy growth of the nation.