‘Population Policy’ in its narrower sense, according to the UNEP is “an effort to affect the size structure and distribution or characteristics of population”. In its broader range, it includes “efforts to regulate
economic and social conditions which are likely to have demographic consequences”.

Population Policy Aims at :

  1. Decreasing birth rate,
  2. Limiting the number of children in family or two
  3. Decreasing mortality,
  4. Creating awareness among the masses regarding the consequences of galloping population,
  5. Procuring necessary contraceptives.
  6. Enacting laws like legalizing abortion, and
  7. Giving incentives as well as disincentives.
  8. Checking concentration of people in congested areas,Providing necessary public services for effective settlement in new areas, and
  9. Relocation of offices to less populated areas.

Since India’s population policy needs to aim at ‘enhancing the quality of life’, and ‘increasing individual happiness’, it has to act as a means to attaining a broader objective of achieving individual fulfillment and social progress. Initially, the policy was adhoc in nature, flexible, and based on a trial and error approach. Gradually, it was replaced by more scientific planning.

  1. The sub-committee on population appointed in 1940 under the chairmanship of Radha Kamal Mukherjee by the National Planning Committee (appointed by Indian National Congress in 1938) laid emphasis on self-control, spreading knowledge of cheap and safe methods of birth- control and establishing birth control clinics. It also recommended raising the marriage age, discouragement of polygamy, and a eugenic programme of sterilizing persons suffering from transmissible diseases.
  2. The Bhore Committee of 1943 appointed by the government criticized self-control approach and advocated ‘deliberate limitation of families’.

After independence, a Population Policy Committee was created in 1952 and a Family Planning Research and Programmes Committee in 1953. A Central Family Planning Board was created in 1956 which emphasized sterilization. During the 1960s, a more vigorous family planning programme was advocated for stabilizing the growth of population over a reasonable period While earlier, it was assumed by the government that the family planning programme had created enough motivation among the people and the government was only to provide facilities for contraception, it was later realized that people needed motivation and masses had to be educated.

In April 1976, the Minister of Health and Family Planning, Karan Singh, presented before the Parliament the National Population Policy :

  1. Raising the statutory age of marriage,
  2. Introducing fiscal incentives to states which perform well in the field of family planning,
  3. Paying special attention to improving female literacy,
  4. Public education through all available media (radio, television, press, films),
  5. Introducing direct monetary incentives for adoption of vasectomy and tubectomy operations, and a new thrust towards research in reproductive health.

It was planned at a time when the Emergency was in operation.There were so many excesses in the sterilization campaign under the leadership of Sanjay Gandhi, that it came to be regarded with hostility by people. The programme was so overzealously implemented in some of the North Indian states that during the election in 1977 after the Emergency, these excesses became an important election issue and the Congress lost the elections at the Centre. When in 1980, Indira Gandhi returned to power, she became extremely cautious and unenthusiastic about reviving her commitment to the family planning programme. Since then the policy of almost all governments in the states and at the centre has been so lopsided that the growth rate of population which was expected to have fallen below the 2 per cent mark, is till around 2.35 per cent.

Population Policy 2000 : National Socio-Demographic Goals for 2010

  1. Address the unmet needs for basic reproductive and child health services, supplies and infrastructure.
  2. Make school education up to age 14 free and compulsory, and reduce dropouts at primary and secondary school levels to below 20 per cent for both boys and girls.
  3. Reduce infant mortality rate to below 30 per 1000 live births. Reduce maternal mortality ratio to below 100 per 100,000 live births.
  4. Achieve universal immunization of children against all vaccine preventable diseases.
  5. Promote delayed marriage of girls, not earlier than age 18 and preferably after 20 years of age.
  6. Achieve 80 per cent institutional deliveries and 100 per cent deliveries by trained persons.
  7. Achieve universal access information/counseling, and services for fertility regulation and contraception with a wide basket of choices.
  8. Achieve 100 per cent registration of births, deaths, marriage and pregnancy.
  9. Contain the spread of Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), and promote greater integration between the management of Reproductive Tract Infections (RTI) and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) and the National Aids Control Organization.
  10. Prevent and control communicable diseases.
  11. Integrate Indian System of Medicine (ISM) in the provision of reproductive and child health services, and in reaching out to households.
  12. Promote vigorously the small family norm to achieve replacement levels of TFR.
  13. Bring about convergence in implementation of related social sector programmes so that family welfare becomes a people centered programme. But National Population Policy-2000 has been criticized on many counts.Some major concerns regarding NPP-2000 are:
  14. NPP-2000 provides cash-based incentives for small family norm. Some scholars are concerned that this does not help as monetary incentives do not change habits and behaviours based on social norms. That children are gifts of God and one should never stop children from coming to this world is widespread social value in our society. Monetary incentives can not change this basic social value, alternative strategies need to be devised There is need for social transformation, and no innovative strategy on line with this thought has been included in NPP-2000.
  15. Highlighting the bottom up approach to implementing small family norm NPP-2000 has emphasized on role of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). However, it is not mentioned what their role is going to be. Similarly, Population Research Institutes have not been given any clear responsibilities.
  16. NPP-2000 unequivocally rejects all forms of coercion. Yet, many state governments have announced population policies that violate this commitment of NPP. Coercion is used by states in the form of disincentives. For example, Rajasthan and Maharashtra make adherence to two child norm, a service condition for state government employment Many states provide funds for rural development schemes subject to adherence of population largest by panchayats.
  17. Disincentives imposed by state governments are often anti-poor and anti-women. The poor (tribals, dalits etc.) have more fertility rate than the rich.

Family Planning

India was the first country to evolve a government-backed family planning programme in the 1950s when the rest of the world was not aware of the problem. But; India is still trailing behind in population control. During the Emergency regime the political leaders; the government officials and policemen shouted themselves hoarse advocating sterilization. They devised ambitious programmes and carried them out against popular wishes; and even used such harsh and coercive methods of sterilization that today one is reluctant to talk of family planning. The concerned officials in family welfare/ planning departments have been scared away from it. The experts have jettisoned hopes of reaching targets. In fact, for all practical purposes, the country is without an effective programme or an effective target. Political parties studiously skirt the subject, and election campaigns are conducted without a word about it. What was once a highly dramatic political issue has suddenly become taboo.

1977 onward , ‘family planning’ was rechristened ‘family welfare’, and tasks beyond its competence embracing all aspects of family welfare, including improvement of women’s educational level. Government of India also adopted the UNEP guideline of delaying the first child and spacing the subsequent births.

The methods in family planning :

Sterilization, loop, pill withdrawal rhythm etc. The condom and the pill seem most popular among the high socio-economic groups; so are withdrawal method and the condom among the middle socio-economic groups and sterilization is preferred by people belonging to the low social strata.Operations for family planning are not very popular among the socially well-placed, as this group is exposed to other methods of birth control A good number of women use more than one method depending on circumstances, availability and mood of the moment.

Measures Adopted :
  1. Officially mobilized in 1951, about 150 family planning clinics were established Since then, a network of Community Health Centres, Primary Health Centres, and Sub Centres have been created for implementing family planning programme.A large number of centres and sub-centres are created in rural areas in each Five Year Plan.
  2. Of the various methods of family planning, the government till recently depended more on the ‘camp approach’ which relied implicitly on the district authorities applying pressure on their officials to intensify the sterilization campaign. The government set targets for different states and district and adopted persuasive, monetary, as well as coercive measures to achieve targets.The highest rate of target achievement (200%) was in 1776-77.
  3. The Primary Health Centres in villages, engaged in family planning programmes, perform two specific functions: providing services to people and disseminating information about these services in an effective manner in order to motivate people to accept family planning. Nearly half a million medical and para-medical persons are engaged in the programme, besides half a million part-time village health guides.
What We Achieved :
  1. Since 1968-69 the decline in the birth rate became noticeable. The birth rate which stood at 41.7 per thousand in 1961came down to 28.7 in 1994 and 25.2 in 1995. Between 1956 and 1996, about 13 crores births-equal to the current population of Japan-were averted (The Hindustan Times, February).
  2. The achievement of the targets has not been disastrous in all fields though the number of sterilization has fallen, According to the National Health and Family Welfare, only 6 per cent of Indian women between the ages of 13 and 49 years use any modern contraceptive. Yet another report says that half of the couples do not practice family planning though over 90 per cent are aware of it(The Hindustan times).
  3. Such Comp approach has its own disadvantages.Recently in Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh, there was such mass sterilization (tube tony) camp. Which led to death of 19 women. The doctor alleged in this case performed surgery of 83 woman in just 5 hours, i.e.A surgery per 4 minutes Also such sterilization camp is biased against women as tube tony is preferred or forced on women instead of vasectomy of male.
  4. The use of condom in India is as insignificant as a more six per couple per year. The data dished out by the survey about sterilization rate (30%) – the mainstay of the sterilizations are undertaken only after having had three or more children. The total fertility even begun in India (Sahay, 1997).
  5. Today, the effort has altogether slackened to the extent that Ashish Bose, a noted demographer of our country, in his talk on Indian Population said that “family planning programme has completely failed in the country and entirely a new approach is needed for its success”.
  6. The progress in containing population growth has been extremely slow as is evident when we compare it with China which has avoided the birth of 200 million children since 1970 through a vigorous family planning programme and brought the fertility rate down to 2.5 from 5.82 among eligible mothers (the Hindustan Times,). China adopted the norm of one child per couple in the urban centres and a ceiling of two children per couple in the rural areas, with several incentives for the planned child as also the parents. Those who violated these norms were penalized The planned child was given special allowances till the age of 14 for education and upbringing; and the couple was provided with land for building house or for farm machinery. A major component of the programme in China is encouraging late marriage and late child birth.

Attitude Towards Family Planning

The idea of family planning has been successfully brought to the notice of an average Indian woman. The attitude of a woman towards family planning is influenced by her education, age, income background, husband’s occupation, and her (working) status among other factor. In terms of age, it has been found that the percentage of women approving family planning decreases as the age group increases. But the acceptance is about two-third even among the older age groups. This clearly shows that the great majority of Indian women approve of family planning, irrespective of age.

  1. Kothari and Gulati conducted a survey in Rajasthan. It was found that out of total persons studied, 88.1 per cent were in favour of family planning and 11.9 per cent were against it. Kothari also noted that according to the findings of the National Family Welfare Survey, conducted in Rajasthan in 1993, of the women married in the 13-49 years age group, 90 per cent knew some method of family planning, and 76.2 per cent were aware of some sources of getting the required contraceptives, though only 31.8 per cent were actually using the contraceptives.
  2. Rao and Inbaraj conducted a survey on attitude towards family planning in Vellore city of Tamil Nadu and its surrounding villages. In all, 2,426 persons were interviewed with the intention of finding out whether they considered it within the power of the couple to control the number of children. Around 37 per cent replied in the affirmative and 41 per cent replied in the negative (The Journal of Family Welfare). When they were asked whether they themselves were in favour of family planning, 64.6 per cent said ‘Yes’ and 25.4 per cent said ‘No’. The reasons given for hostility to family planning measures were: it was harmful to women, it went against God’s will, and it constituted unnatural behaviour. However, since seven out of every ten persons were in favour of family planning, it points to the fact that people today have ceased to be very traditional in their beliefs and values.
  3. A study made by the National Institute of Community Development covering 365 villages in 16 states and 43 districts and 7,224 respondents also revealed that 51.6 per cent were in favour of family planning and 23.7 percent were against it
  4. Since illiteracy is found more among the poorer section of our society, it is seen that women with low education in the lower strata are more reluctant to accept family planning methods. Their contention is that since they have no money to fall back upon, their only hope of survival is their children’s income. An average poor Indian couple is not satisfied with fewer than two or three children. Time and again studies in various parts of the country have revealed this fact About a decade ago, a large scale survey covering some 32,000 respondents sponsored by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare came to the conclusion that most couples wanted not only three or more children but they also wanted that two of them should be sons (The Hindustan Times).
  5. A survey was conducted in 1991on ‘Socialization of Indian Youth About Population by the Family Planning Foundation, Delhi in collaboration with Operation Research Group, Delhi.This survey studies the attitudes of 17,185 male and female children selected from 251schools from urban and rural areas of 22 districts of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi. A large number of the respondents were in favour of two-child family. While about 90 per cent subjects preferred one son and one daughter, 73 per cent were not keen about giving undue importance to the sex of the children. A majority of the respondents did not consider the age of marriage of both boys and girls below 22 years as the correct marriage age. A good number of them had slight knowledge of contraceptives but they were not very well informed about the subject. A large number has acquired this knowledge from watching the TV (The Hindustan Times).
  6. A survey was conducted by Population Research Centre of Udaipur University in Rajsthan in 1992 in which 5,211women (1,019 from urban areas and 4,192 fro rural areas) from 27 districts in 13-49 years age group were interviewed The survey revealed that among the currently married women (i.e.5058), 99 per cent in urban areas and 84 percent in rural areas had knowledge of at least one modem method of family planning.ie.,sterilization, condom, pill and injection) as different from the traditional method of periodic abstinence, withdrawal etc. As regards their husbands, amongst 2,433 rural husbands, 57.1% approve family planning, 16.8 per cent disapproved it, and 26.1 per cent were unsure. Amongst urban husbands, 74.9 per cent approved it, 9.4 per cent disapproved it, and 15.7 per cent were unsure.

Reality Check of Family Planning

  1. Family planning in India has come to a standstill In fact, the programme is moving backward as today we are producing 52 children every minute in comparison to 21 children per minute in 1971 and eight children per minute in 1941. This stagnation is bound to wipe out all the effort that has been made since 1952.
  2. While it is true that the couple protection percentage has gone up steadily from 10.4 in 1971 to 43.96 in 1995, it should be asked : who are these couples who are supposed to have obtained protection? It is none other than those who have had three or more children and who have already done their part of the damage to the two children family norm.
  3. The propaganda for two child and no child after 35 year of age should be linked with improving the standard of living, provision of better education, and health guarantee of (two) children and improved services for the health of women/mother.This will put the couples in a frame of mind where they would themselves be anxious to work for this objective. Money incentives cannot be a motivating factor. The money may be incentive for the campaigner to motivate the couple but not for the person undergoing sterilization.
  4. Some scholars present optimistic blueprints for checking population explosion in the coming years. One point usually made is that our country has many untapped resources which, if properly developed will sustain even three times the present population.The second point urged is that industrial growth, economic development and increase in exports will take care of poverty, unemployment and the increasing population.
  5. Both these views are rather naive and unsound What is useful and important for any country is the goods and services actually available and not likely to be available to meet the needs of the population. With the present political situation in the country both at the centre and in the states, with the political parties laying focus on achieving and retaining power rather than on ‘community development’ and with increasing casteism, parochialism, regionalism, and linguism, how can we expect our power elite to take interest in development and modernization and/ or tapping the untapped resources.

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