• Wednesday, February 01, 2023

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Experts warn against India’s population control draft

(Photo by SAM PANTHAKY/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shilpa Sharma

INDIA’S most populous state, Uttar Pradesh announced a draft law for population control on Saturday (10), as per which those having more than two children will be devoid of any special concessions or benefits.

It proposes denying government jobs, promotions, subsidies and the right to contest local elections to anyone who has more than two children.

Having a population of over 220 million, Uttar Pradesh has long been a governance challenge and consistently ranked low on development indices, the BBC reported.

However, experts believe the state does not need such a stringent law as its population growth – like India’s – is already declining.

According to them, the “coercive” two-child policy could further increases unsafe or sex-selective abortions, given the deep-rooted preference for sons.

The bill, drafted by the state’s law commission, contradicts with the Uttar Pradesh’s population control policy which was also released on Sunday (11).

Poonam Muttreja, executive director of Population Foundation of India, said, “The bill runs counter to an overarching population policy that addresses a wide range of issues including adolescent sexual and reproductive health, child and maternal mortality, and ageing.”

“UP (Uttar Pradesh) has an 18% unmet need for contraception – instead of disempowering women further, we should be ensuring that they have access to a wide basket of contraceptive devices,” she said.

Experts call concern about India’s population explosion ‘a myth’.

Official count shows – on average, women in most states have been having fewer children than before, effectively flattening the growth curve.

Fertility rate in Uttar Pradesh nearly halved from 4.82 in 1993 to 2.7 in 2016 – and it’s expected to touch 2.1 by 2025, according to a government projection.

Given the falling rates, “incentivising sterilisation is counterproductive”, Muttreja said, adding, “70% of India’s increase in population is going to come from young people. So, what we need is non-permanent, spacing methods.”.

As per latest data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), fertility rate has dropped below replacement levels – 2.1 births per woman – in 19 out of India’s 22 states and union territories.

Meanwhile, six states – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh – that are home to roughly 40 per cent of India’s population also have fertility rates higher than the replacement level, 2.1. This is in sharp contrast with Kerala (1.8), Karnataka (1.7), Andhra Pradesh (1.7) or Goa (1.3).

Population control with two-child policy is not a new concept in India

In 2018, more than 125 MPs wrote to the president asking for the implementation of a two-child norm, but the same year the supreme court dismissed several petitions seeking population control measures as it could lead to a “civil war-like situation”.

Last year, three MPs from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party introduced bills in parliament to control population.

This year as well, members of the governing party are preparing to introduce a national population control law through private members’ Bills in the monsoon session of parliament beginning next week, as per reports.

The Monsoon Session of Parliament will begin from July 19 to August 13 with 19 days of business.

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