India must build awareness on population control

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    In News

    Recently, two Members of Parliament of the Bharatiya Janata Party introduced in the Lok Sabha a private members’ Bill aimed at population control in India.

    Major Highlights 

    • The Bill seeks to insert a new directive principle in Part IV of the Constitution enjoining the State to take all steps to control population growth by promoting small family norms and achieve a stable population. 
    • The Bill also makes it a fundamental duty for citizens to adopt small family norms and work towards a stable population of the country.

    The rationale behind the bill

    • Population rise is the most significant reason for India’s slow rate of development, and the Bill argues for an immediate need for population control. 
    • India’s most serious social and economic problems are its huge population and rapid growth.
      • Rapid population growth will lead to problems and extreme poverty.
    • Policies framed by various governments have not been able to control the population and there is no law on population control.
    •  A rising population limits the ability of the State to provide a better quality of life to its citizens since a large chunk of national income is spent on maintaining the existing facilities.
    • There is a need for a law on population so that every Indian reaps more benefits from economic growth and deals with challenges posed by fast population growth.

    the Discourse and  Debate around India’s rising population

    • The debate and the discourse around India’s rising population are not recent, having begun since Independence. 
    • India was among the first nations to address its population problem as early as 1951, raising awareness about the ills of overpopulation. 
    • While there has been a significant rise in India’s population, there has also been a sharp decline in India’s total fertility rate (TFR).
      •  In 1950, the TFR was at around 5.9%, and is now 2% (fifth round of the National Family Health Survey, or NFHS). 
      • There was a steep decline after the 1970s, indicating an inversely proportional relationship between economic prosperity and the fertility rate.
    • The debate around the need for population control has been greatly politicised in India. 
      • The entirety of this discourse around such a sensitive issue is often reduced to a petty religious issue, and, ultimately, the subject of development suffers.
      • In 2022 Uttar Pradesh government came up with the Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilisation, and Welfare) Bill, 2021. 
    • It has been highlighted that population is a grave concern in the Hindi heartland, especially Uttar Pradesh and Bihar
      • But the suggestions were more political than practical. 
        • For instance, the Bill said that no government job would be offered to couples with more than two children.
        •  However, there was no clarification about 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.
        • The Bill was seen to strengthen political polarisation and facilitate the politics of majority appeasement.

    Indication of Data 

    • NFHS data indicates that although the fertility rate of Muslims is higher than Hindus, the gap between the two has shrunk substantially.
    •  In 1992-93, the gap between the Hindu and Muslim fertility rates was 1.1, which now has reduced to 0.35. 
    • Data also show that Muslims have adopted better family planning measures than Hindus.
    • India’s TFR, 2%, is even lower than the replacement level, signifying a remarkable step in the population control parameters. 
    • A recent UN report said that India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country next year.
    • But the World Population Prospects 2022 also highlighted that India’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) had come down from 5.9 children per woman in 1950 to 2.2 children per woman in 2020, just shy of 2.1 replacement level fertility.

    Conclusion and Suggestions 

    • India does not need a law for forced population control. 
      • Forced population control measures have not shown promising results in the countries that have implemented them, the most relevant example being India’s immediate neighbour, China
        • The one-child policy has proved to be disastrous, causing a demographic imbalance. 
        • The population of China is aging faster than in any other modern country, owing to the policies of forced population control.
    • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has countered the need for such a law by saying, “forced population control can have very dangerous consequences, it can create a gender imbalance”. 
    • The focus should be on strengthening public health infrastructure and raising awareness about the need for population control. 
      • Any forced control method will impact the rate of aging. 

    Mains Practice Question

    [Q] Do you agree that India needs a law on population control? Give reasons in support of your answer.