Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the country, has announced that it wants to control population to promote sustainable development with more equitable distribution. The BJP government in the state has floated a proposal that focuses on disincentivising couples from having more than two children and rewards those who have only one child.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath unveiled the draft Bill of the UP Population Policy 2021-2030 on the World Population Day. The proposed legislation for population control has become a major political flashpoint in the state which is all set to go to polls next year. Not just UP, several other states are also working to implement population control measures. However, some experts cite the decreasing total fertility rate to argue that India may not need such drastic measures to control population.
The UP CM has said the sole aim of the draft policy is to align the state’s reproductive rate to its development goals.
It also aims at bringing down the gross fertility rate among women to 2.1 by 2026 and to 1.9 by 2030.
In the draft of the Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilization, and Welfare) Bill-2021 issued by the State Law Commission, ‘Bacche Do He Acche’ has been highlighted.
The proposed policy announces several incentives for parents who follow the two-child policy or have only one child. Similarly, for those who do not adhere to this norm, there will be several disincentives according to the proposed draft bill.
Two BJP-ruled states, Assam and Karnataka are moving towards implementing a two-child policy.
At least 12 states had at some point in time implemented the two-child policy for government employees. The states included Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand.
However, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh later revoked the policy.
The opposition in Uttar Pradesh has hit out at the Yogi government over the proposed population policy, terming it as “election propaganda” to divert people’s attention from failures on various fronts ahead of assembly elections next year.
Samajwadi Party (SP) MP from Sambhal, Shaqfiqur Rahman Barq said the state government should ban marriages if it wants to stabilise the rising population.
“A lot of births are taking place in China and you (India) are stopping people from having children. A time will come when we will be very few. If there is a war, then from where will you bring people to fight,” Barq said.
VHP working president Alok Kumar sent a missive to the state law commission saying UP should avoid giving incentives to parents with a single child as this can affect the state’s demography. He cited the cases of Assam and Kerala, where Muslim population growth has surpassed that of Hindus.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, whose JD(U) is an ally of the BJP, opposed population control policy and said that merely framing a law would not serve any purpose as far as the issue of population control is concerned. He stressed the need for proper education and awareness among women to achieve the objective.
Is there a merit in opposition claims against population control laws? While increasing population has been a bane for the country, data shows that the trend of population rise is reversing in many states including Uttar Pradesh. Two indicators, TFR, replacement TFR show that population in several states is already on the decline. At least 18 states have already attained below replacement total fertility rate (TFR).
While the fertility rate indicates the average number of children that each woman will give birth to during her reproductive years, replacement level fertility is the level of fertility at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next.
It is assumed that for a country’s population to remain stable, the total fertility rate should be 2.1.
In 1950-55, India’s total fertility rate was 5.9. The rate has declined steadily since 1975 to touch 2.2. Experts believe that the fertility rate in India is projected to fall to 1.93 by 2025.
Data from the National Family Healthy Survey done in 2019-20 (NFHS-5) has not yet been released for Uttar Pradesh. But going by National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4) (2015-16), the fertility rate in Uttar Pradesh has declined from 4.1 to 2.7 during 1998 to 2016.