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World Population Day: No need for population control laws, people are keeping small families on their own: Experts

New Delhi: Today is World Population Day. The world’s population has reached eight billion. That’s why the theme for Population Day is ‘Eight Billion Worlds: Towards a Flexible Future for All – Opportunities for All and Ensuring Rights and Choices for All’. In terms of population, India ranks second in the world with a population of 1.35 billion. Five questions and answers from Poonam Mutreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India, on Population Control Law and Elderly Population Care and Family Planning Issues.

Question 1: How is population seen as a problem for a country like India which is rich in geography and resources? Where have we gone wrong at the policy level?

Answer: India is one of the most populous countries in the world and the first national population program was launched here in 1952. At the same time, the people here have always been very aware of the question of population. In the 1950s and 1960s, the government encouraged people to adopt family planning. Its main objective was to create awareness among the people of the country about health and family planning.

During the Emergency in India in the 1970s, a number of campaigns such as forced sterilization of men were carried out, which proved to be a turning point in the country’s approach to family planning. Cruel stories of sterilization or forced sterilization came to light. The subject of family planning has long been at the bottom of the government’s priority list. Since then, female sterilization has become the main method of contraception due to the reluctance of male sterilization in the 1980s. Despite having a better understanding of the subject of family planning in a developing country, some myths and misconceptions still exist today.

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Question 2: Some states are talking about population control policy and moving towards its implementation, while how do we see the contradiction of this policy between the Center and the states?

Answer: Concerns about the need for ‘population explosion’ and ‘population control’ have been misquoted by many policy makers in various states. For example, the state of Assam had decided to adopt a ‘two children’ policy in 2021. According to the state government, families with more than two children will not be able to avail the benefits of special schemes of the government. According to the National Family Health Survey-Five (NFHS) 2019-2021, the total fertility rate (TFR) in Assam – (average number of children born per woman) is 1.9 per cent, which is lower than the national average. In NFHS-5 Assam, 77 per cent of married couples aged 15-49 are women and 63 per cent men do not want more children. It shows that even without population policy, men and women want small families. States need to consider other contraceptive options, especially given the large population of adolescents and young people, including long-acting contraceptives (LARCs).

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Question 3: At present India is called the land of youth, but after some time a large part of the population will become old. Do we have enough preparation for that level, especially in terms of social security?

Answer: India’s population growth is expected to stabilize before reaching projected levels in the next 12 years. The elderly population in India is projected to grow at a rate of 12 per cent of the total population by 2025. According to a report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the population of the elderly in the southern and western states will reach 19.92 million by 2030 and will almost double the current level. By 2050, one in five Indians will be elderly. Therefore, health and economic security schemes for this population should be given priority.

This increase in the elderly population will create social and financial challenges. Therefore, there is a need to build a strong health system for the transition to old age care. In 2007, the Indian Parliament passed the ‘Parents and Senior Citizens Care and Welfare Bill’, which mandates the care of parents or senior citizens by children or relatives. Penalties were also provided for its violation. The ‘National Policy on Senior Citizens 2011’ recognizes senior citizens as a valuable resource for the country and ensures their full participation in society.

Question 4: Has there been any change in the rate of population change due to the Corona epidemic?

Answer: Population changes take a long time to unfold. Population changes can take decades. Comprehensive statistics are also available only after the census is conducted every ten years. There is currently very little evidence to support population change due to the Covid-19 epidemic. Therefore, it is difficult to say what effect the epidemic might have on the total population.

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Question 5: At present 11 states have population control laws. What changes should be made in the new law?

Answer: As stated earlier, there is no need for a ‘population control’ law in any Indian state. States need to see their population as an asset rather than a liability. There is ample evidence to show that coercive policies have had negative consequences. A study conducted by former Senior Indian Administrative Service Officer (IAS) Nirmala Butch in five states (Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Orissa, Rajasthan) found in ‘Rules, Effects, Results and Experience of Two Children in Panchayats’ that Was a. Increase in sex-selective and unsafe abortions in states with two-child policy. To contest local body elections, men divorce their wives and leave their children in shelters to adopt to avoid family disability.

Global evidence shows that incentives and disappointing policies do not work. India needs to focus on a rights-based approach to family planning, as it committed in 1994 at the International Conference on Population Development (ICPD) with other governments from 179 countries. Strengthening family planning and development programs should help married couples make their positive reproductive choices. Governments at all levels need to spend more on health care, comprehensive sex education and sexual and reproductive health services. We must invest in skills education, creating livelihood opportunities for men and women.


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