UP Population Control : Measures Pave the Way for Development
Everyone should get good health services, better education, roads, drinking water and other facilities and this is possible only when we control our population.
It is necessary to execute Population Control Measures and ensure healthy birth spacing through means related to augmenting the availability, accessibility and affordability of quality reproductive health services to achieve the goal of populationstabilization and its welfare in the State; Uttar Pradesh Population Control, Stabilization and Welfare Bill,2021 promises this. The overall objective of the proposed law is the welfare of the people of the State by promoting the two-child norm. Assam has embarked on a similar policy recently which shall certainly help the development of the minority community in Assam. The Draft opens with a noble objective before it starts listing the incentives and disincentives.
It was with Paul and Anne Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb published in 1968 that the idea of population explosion gained weightage as a parameter for the development of a country. Then occurred the Green Revolution which was successful in making India self-sufficient in foodgrains and avoiding the famines that were predicted in the seminal work. The Population Bomb has very tacitly pointed out that overpopulation results in poverty; its associated signs are crowds and squalor. The notion of an exploding population is deeply ingrained in both Eastern and Western worlds, for Plato recommended a meagre population for the proper functioning of a State and now the idea of restricting couples from having more children keeps cropping up as a policy solution. It is, therefore, logical that if all couples have two or fewer children, the population will stop growing; it will certainly be adversely impacted by what demographers call “population momentum” because of the large number of young people in the State. According to UN projections, India will soon surpass China to become the world’s most populous country, with nearly 1.5 billion people. Close to 812 million Indians still live below the poverty line, without access to basic resources such as food and shelter.
No one can deny what the Chief Minister Adityanath Yogi while releasing the Uttar Pradesh State Population Policy 2021-30 on the World Population Day, said “increasing population is the root cause of major problems including inequality” in the country. It aims to bring down the total fertility rate among women to 2.1 by 2026 and to 1.9 by 2030—from the current rate of 2.7. The draft rightly says it is necessary to control and stabilize the population of the State for the promotion of sustainable development with more equitable distribution. In the State like Uttar Pradesh, there are limited ecological and economic resources at hand. If enacted, the Bill shall prove a milestone by making accessible the basic necessities of human life including affordable food, safe drinking water, decent housing,quality education, economic opportunities, power/ electricity for domestic consumption and a secure living to all citizens. The draft has also the provision for providing accessible solutions to impotence/ infertility and reducing the new born and maternal mortality rate. One of the key points in the new policy is to make comprehensive arrangements for the care of elderly, apart from better management of education, health and nutrition of adolescents between 11 to 19 years.
The draft bill consists of five chapters with several sections in each. Chapter II deals with incentives and disincentives. The incentives apply, for the most part to those in the govt service. If an employee or his spouse undergoes sterilization after the birth of two children, he will be entitled to many incentives like promotion, increments and other benefits with regard to healthcare, educational facilities for children, etc. If this sterilization is undertaken by him or his spouse after the birth of one child, even more incentives are promised. In brief, itushers a new era of social and political emancipation for women.
Population control is the only way to have access to resources and quality life. If quality of life improves, the nation marches ahead. In this way, Population control measures proposed by UP Government truly speaking as the Prime Minister Modi said “is an expression of patriotism”. Those who see a communal agenda in it and say “If Muslims come out in support of the population policy, the Yogi Adityanath Government itself would likely track back under pressure from Hindu right” (Dr S Y Quraishi), used to shout that the increasing population is a great hurdle in development. Moreover, they must not forget that the Policy is equally applicable to all sections including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. It is also noteworthy that Muslim birth rate has been the highest in the country and the lowest in the adoption of Family Planning. Because of unplanned population growth, Muslims have poor access to health services, and quite a significant number of them is poor and illiterate. The population control measures seem to proclaim a golden era for the development of all sections including Muslims.
The point which the critics have failed to appreciate is that the Bill makes the Government accountable to initiate efforts to increase accessibility of contraceptive measures under the family planning programme and provide a better system for safe abortions. Provisions have been made to ensure health services for all and pay special attention to pregnant women, infants, sick newborns and children who are severely malnourished. Other important provisions of welfare include setting up a State Population Fund and introducing Population Control as a compulsory subject in all secondary schools.
Even a cursory look at the provisions of the UP-Population Control Bill shows that most of the measures, desirable as they are, should have been addressedlongago. Thanks to Yogi Government that these measures are in the process of being manufactured. Moreover, the strategy is choice-based and people can voluntarily decide to have fewer children; of course, access to education and incentives will motivate them to adopt the population control measures. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha and Assam already have a two-child policy in some form.
We, as citizens of this country also need to pay heed to the “balancing” narrative; this requires a community-centric approach to population control so that better facilities can be made available to all Sections of the society. Poverty and illiteracy are major factors for population expansion. There is also a lack of awareness about population in certain communities, and therefore, community-centric efforts are needed. Isn’t the increasing population of a particular community a threat to the societal fabric, social harmony and development of the country. Isn’t Hindu Community in danger from a supposedly burgeoning Muslim population? Haven’t the people of a particular Community become a part of an international ploy to slowly take over the Hindu population and turn them into minorities? Henceforth, the allegation that the bill is a ploy to create a Hindu-Muslim controversy is a terrified fantasy, and has been used as an election- winning formula by the Opposition, and they would not succeed in their vicious mission.
In effect, the UP Government through the Bill has addressed the issues of poverty, illiteracy and the scarce natural resource base of the State which are the major impediments in the development of a State/Nation. The proposed law is, therefore, necessary, and can potentially end the looming demographic disaster.
By Dr Suresh Kumar Agrawal
(The writer is Professor & Head, Department of English, Maharaja Ganga Singh University, Bikaner.)