anti-people  popupation policy

hammer1.gif (1140 bytes) People’s Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of
India (Marxist)


No. 28

July 15, 2001

Anti-People State
Population Policies

Dr Mohan Rao

IN February last
year, the Government of India adopted the National Population Policy 2000. This policy is
weak on many counts: population is not integrated with health, it has population
stabilization rather than the health and well being of the population as a goal and so on.
Yet one aspect on which the policy is to be hailed is that it resolutely affirms the
“commitment of the government towards voluntary and informed choice and consent of
citizens while availing of reproductive health care services, and continuation of the
target free approach in administering family planning services”. It is thus
surprising that several state governments have announced population policies, which, in
very significant manners, violate the letter and the spirit of the National Population
Policy. Equally distressing is that several private members bills are pending in
parliament that seek to reinforce a punitive and anti-democratic approach to issues of


considering why these measures are anti-democratic, it might be pertinent to recall some
of the measures proposed by the states. The Uttar Pradesh policy, for instance,
disqualifies persons married before the legal age of marriage from government jobs, as if
children are responsible for child marriages. Further, 10 per cent of financial assistance
to Panchayats is to be based on family planning performance. Indeed, frightfully recalling
the Emergency, the assessment of the performance of medical officers and other health
workers is linked to performance in the Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) programme, the
new avatar of the family welfare programme. The policy also recommends User Fees for
government health services when it is widely accepted that these are inaccesible to the
poor. And in a daring departure from other states, the policy recommends the induction of
contraceptives such as injectables and implants which are both unsafe and dangerous to the
health of women.

Madhya Pradesh,
besides debarring persons married before the legal age at marriage from government jobs,
also forbids them from contesting Panchayat elections. As in the case of UP, disbursement
of resources to PRIs is linked to family planning performance. In a piquant twist, the
provision of rural development schemes, income generating schemes for women, and indeed
poverty alleviation programmes as a whole, are all linked to performance in family
planning. Rajasthan, besides debarring persons with more than two children from Panchayat
elections, also bars them from other elected bodies like cooperative institutions. It
makes adherence to a “two-child norm” a service condition for state government

In addition to
many of the above, the Maharashtra government in an Order announced the two-child norm as
an eligibility criterion for a range of schemes for the weaker sections, including access
to the public distribution system and education in government schools. The Andhra Pradesh
government’s fervour is exhibited by the fact that performance in RCH and the Couple
Protection Rate will determine construction of school buildings, public works, and funding
for rural development. Performance in RCH is also a criterion for coverage under
programmes like TRYSEM, Weaker Section Housing Scheme, Low Cost Sanitation Scheme and
DWCRA. Allotment of surplus agricultural land, housing sites, benefits under IRDP, SC
Action Plan and B C Action Plan are to be given in preference to acceptors of family
planning. Further, educational concessions, subsidies, promotions and government jobs are
to be restricted to those accepting the small family norm. In a macabre metaphor of the
lottery that is the life of the poor in the country, awards of Rs 10,000 each are to be
given to three couples per district chosen by lottery. Eligible couples comprise those
with two girl children with the mother sterilised, those with one girl child with the
mother sterilised and couples two children or less with the father sterilised.

reports indicate that Gujarat, that crucible of Hindutva politics, has unveiled a
population policy that, besides carrying a range of disincentives, also explicitly makes a
two-child norm mandatory for all communities.

These state
policies are thus in complete disjunction with the National policy and indeed with
commitments made by the Government of India at the International Conference on Population
and Development in Cairo. Policy makers so anxious to control numbers need to be
reminded that such policies are unnecessary as a significant demographic transition is
underway in large parts of the country. Areas where this transition has lagged behind need
assistance towards strengthening their health and anti-poverty programmes and not measures
that punish the poor. As the NPP itself points out, there is a large unmet need for
health and family planning services. In such a situation, without meeting this unmet need,
to propose punitive measures is both irrational and absurd.


disincentives proposed are particularly anti-poor, anti-dalit and anti-adivasis, with
these weaker sections having to bear the brunt of the withdrawal of a range of subsidies
and measures to mitigate poverty and deprivation. The National Family Health Survey for
1998-99 shows that the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is 3.15 for SCs, 3.06 for STs, 2.66
among OBCs and 3.47 among illiterate women as a whole. In contrast, it is 1.99 among women
educated beyond Class X. Significant sections among these already deprived populations
will thus bear the brunt of these policies of disincentives. In addition to privatisation
that de facto deprives SCs and STs of jobs in the organised sector, these explicit policy
measures will further curtail the meager employment opportunities available to them.

disincentives are also anti-women since women in India seldom decide the number of
children they wish to bear, when to bear them and indeed have no control over how many
will survive. By debarring such women from contesting elections makes a mockery of
policies to empower women. Further, they will provide an impetus to some women to
resort to sex selective abortions and female foeticide, worsening an already terrible sex
ratio in the country.

The proposals
are also anti-minorities since they ignore the fact that the somewhat higher TFR among
some sections of these communities are a reflection of their poorer socio-economic
situation. It need hardly be stated that just as the Hindu rate of economic growth is a
chimera, so is a Muslim rate of population growth.

Finally, the
proposals are deeply anti-democratic and violate several provisions of the Constitution
(the right to livelihood, the right to life, the right to privacy, among others) and
several International Covenants that India is signatory to, including the Rights of the

The fact that
structural adjustment policies have led to the collapse of a weak and underfunded public
health care system, and that these same policies have also led to an increase of infant
mortality rates in ten of the fifteen major states of the country, do not seem to concern
our policy makers. So single-minded are they in their short-sighted policies that they
do not realise the appalling fact that it is the fearsome pursuit of family planning
programmes that has led to the distrust of the health system among the poor. The fact too
is that it was these same people who brought down a government for the
“excesses” of family planning not too long back. Is the fear of the poor so
strong among our legislators and policy makers that their memories are so short?


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