- Two states, UP and Assam, are under the process of moving the Population Control Bill
- 12 other states in India already have the 2-child policy including Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Telangana
The draft of the Population Control Bill under discussion on public forums in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Assam have evoked sharp responses from the Opposition parties.
The bill proposes that those residents of the states who have more than two children will be debarred from contesting local bodies elections, applying for government jobs or even from receiving any subsidy from the government.
The Chief Minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, recently said, “An important announcement pertaining to population policy, including voluntary sterilisation, would be made in the state Budget. The Budget Session of the state Assembly would begin on July 12.”
In Assam, the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) and the tea garden workers are likely to be excluded from the bill.
On World Population Day, 11th July 2021, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, said “Across the world, from time to time, concerns have been expressed that increasing population can be a hurdle in development, and for the past four decades discussions on it are going on. Population growth is also related to poverty.”
In UP, the Congress has described the proposed bill as a “political agenda” ahead of the Assembly elections due to take place in 2022, while the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party said the move amounted to “murder of democracy”.
Twelve states in Indian which include Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttarakhand among a few others already have the two-child rule, barring people with more children from contesting in the local body elections.
A report from the United Nations forecasts that India will surpass China as the most populous country by the year 2027, while Chinese experts have said that this could happen as early as the year 2024.
Two-thirds of the population in India is under 35 years of age and despite a declining fertility rate, we could see a jump in numbers in the coming years. The population of our country is expected to peak at around 164 crore by 2050 as per the United Nations.
Notably, on August 15, 2019, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi had expressed concern in his speech over the surge in the population of the country.
PM Modi said, “India was the first country in the world to adopt family planning, a programme for which was formed in 1949.
“The first family planning programme was launched in 1952. In 1977, the government had formed a new population policy. People were given the option to accept it voluntarily.”
He also said, “Now we are seeing that by 2024-25, India will leave China behind in terms of population. India’s population is 135 crore, while that of China is 142 crore. In terms of population, India will leave China behind in just a few years”.
The policy of 2-children in Assam and UP is expected to discourage couples from having more than two children which would then reduce the stress on our limited resources.
China had a one-child policy as a state law for 35 years – starting from 1979 until it was lifted in 2016. According to the government, close to 40 crore births were prevented with that policy.
China’s population would have been around 180 crore against the current 140 crore had the country not introduced the 1-child policy. Even the Per Capita Income of China would have been 20% lower at $ 8,000 levels had the policy not been introduced.
The biggest question, however, stays is would China be an economic superpower had it not controlled its burgeoning population? Most people and experts out there claim the answer to be a big NO.
Several attempts have been made in the past to bring such a law into effect at the national level.
In July 2019, the Rajya Sabha MP, Rakesh Sinha, had introduced the proposed Population Control Bill, 2019, in the Upper House of Parliament. The proposed bill was signed by 125 Members of Parliament, however, it is yet to become an act of law.
On the 7th of February last year the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by Anil Desai, a Member of Parliament from the Shiv Sena. Desai proposed to amend Article 47A of the Constitution of India to introduce a two-child policy per couple.
The 2020 bill also aims to incentivise its adoption through various measures such as educational benefits, taxation cuts, home loans, free healthcare, and better employment opportunities.
The Opposition, however, alleges that the Bharatiya Janata Party is proposing this policy to deny benefits to the minorities of the country who do not support the party. There is no minister from the Muslim community in 15 of the 28 states in India.
However, it should be noted that the representation of minorities in government jobs, local bodies, state and central governments is already lower and this is despite there being a no two-child policy in existence.
In all honesty, this bill should also apply to the people who contest state and general elections and not just to those who go for local bodies and government jobs?
Additionally, it should not be a permanent feature as the experience in China show, we need to actively monitor the birth and fertility rates, and take decisions based on the findings.
The bill is a step in the right direction to control the growing population of India and stay well below the numbers projected for the country for 2050 by the UN.