Patan, Gujarat, July 19 2021 || Kamlesh Dabhi

Synopsis:
In a country like India which is still developing, controlling the population can become one of the keys to providing better facilities and resources to everyone. If not controlled, the demand for basic necessities like food, water, housing, healthcare, electricity, and more would become hard to meet in the near future. And even if India as a country is able to meet the demand, it will come at the cost of ecological degradation, volatile climate, conflicts, endangering various plants and animals and a much higher risk of disasters like pandemics.

The matter of population, rather population control has been one of the least addressed issues in India for a very long time, but now under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, things are changing. We, humans, have lived a life of our own and exploited all the resources available to us mindlessly, without caring about a sustainable future.

Our planet earth is the only such planet in our solar system that sustains life and while we look for life on the moon, first we need to take care of the earth. There’s a saying that mother earth has enough resources for our ‘needs’ but not for our ‘wants’. And as the wants of humans are rising, resources and depleting. Not only that, but it also comes with other repercussions like climate change, epidemics and even pandemics. If the population of India continues to grow at the current rate, the resources won’t be enough to support the livelihood.

Why do we need a population control bill?

In a country like India which is still developing, controlling the population can become one of the keys to providing better facilities and resources to everyone. If not controlled, the demand for basic necessities like food, water, housing, healthcare, electricity, and more would become hard to meet in the near future. And even if India as a country is able to meet the demand, it will come at the cost of ecological degradation, volatile climate, conflicts, endangering various plants and animals and a much higher risk of disasters like pandemics.

Recently, Rakesh Sinha, a BJP MP, introduced a private members bill on population control in Parliament during its Monsoon session, citing the importance of a balance between resources & population. In one of his tweets, he quoted Col. UN Mukharji, “At the end of the decade, they count their number, we calculate our loss.” Showing how a population explosion is our loss.

According to the 2011 census, with over 20 crore population, Uttar Pradesh has been the most populous state in India. Even the fertility rate of the state is 2.7 per cent as compared to the average 2.1 per cent of India. This huge population has always been a challenge and barrier for the government to bring in development and thus looking at the limited resources, the step has to be taken.

The draft bill proposes several incentives and rebates on electricity bills, home loans, and tax on houses etc, in order to entice more and more people. The bill also mentions several incentives for the government employees who will adhere to the 2 child policy. Further, couples who fall below the poverty line will also be incentivised.

Is India ready for population control law?

While the sole purpose of the bill is to create a balance between the available resources and the needs of the current population, many opponents and critics instigate that this bill might create a ‘civil war like situation’ or increased female foeticide and infanticide. Further, they believe it to be a violation of rights by barring couples with more than two children from contesting local body elections and applying for government jobs.

Currently, India has a population of 136.64 crores or 1.36 billion and while the growth projection stands at 0.99%, it is still expected to cross the 1.4 billion mark by 2022. In India, the issue of population control has always been politicised and working on it means fighting and challenging oppressive cultural practices such as the low status of women, low use of contraceptives, and child marriage. This also means supporting a girl child’s education and giving them equal rights at all stages. Thus the aim to bring in law can indirectly empower women. Even the trends from the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) revealed that urban women had a lower fertility rate than rural women across almost all states in India, indicating a direct link between the status of women and the average number of children born to a woman. Previous NHF surveys have also found educational status, wealth status, religion, state of residence as some of the other strong linkages. The NFHS-4 data found that women in the lowest wealth and educated status had on average one more child than someone with higher education and wealth status.

What do the critics argue?

China introduced a one-child policy in the 1980s and ever since the country saw a steep decline in the growth rate of the population. After 30 long years, China abrogated its ‘one-child policy’ in 2016 and further in 2021, China introduced a three-child policy. The move came after the national sex ratio dropped and the size of the young people and workforce further reduced. Being a developing middle-income economy, China couldn’t afford to have an old population, and thus they revoked the strict policy.

Basing their arguments on this example from China, critics across the country have constantly criticised every population control movement. According to them, UP, or even Indian doesn’t need a stringent population control law. They also pointed to the declining fertility rate of UP which has nearly halved from 4.82 in 1993 to 2.7 in 2016. They also expected this rate to go down to 2.1 by 2025 even without a population control bill.

The advocates believe controlled population to be a development driver.

It took almost 123 years to reach the two billion population mark, 33 years to reach three billion and only 12 years to reach the seven billion mark from 6 billion. These numbers clearly show the rate at which the population is increasing and the advocates of the population control bill believe that it is a wrong perception that the population growth is decreasing. While the fertility rate is for sure declining, that doesn’t directly translate to decreasing population growth.

The reason behind this is, the population growth is now not acting on a small population base. To understand this better, in 1967, the population growth rate was 2.11% which was based on a small population of 3.4 billion. With this rate, the annual population growth was 73 million. And while the population growth rate has now declined to 1.1%, it acts on a larger population base of 7.3 billion, adding 80 million population every year. This means, the population is still on the rise, and that’s why a population control bill is essential not only in UP but pan India.

What are the challenges?

Sadly, in India, even a thing like population control is communalised to polarise the opinions of the public. Different religions have a different take on contraception and family planning. It even varies within the religion because of different demography and culture. And no matter how beneficial this bill is since it has been passed by a BJP-ruled state, the opponents believe this to be a mere communal agenda before the elections in the state. The opponents think it to be just another Hindutva card they are playing just before the elections and they are constantly trying to colour this move by the government with an anti-muslim sentiment to outrage the public.

What can be done?

With the experience of forced sterilizations in 1970, we know it is not viable and a more sustainable method, respecting human rights should be approached to control the population. Coercive methods are inhumane and unnecessary and thus should be avoided at all costs. Instead, better policies and their implementation should be prioritised by the government. Bills like population control bills should be encouraged and should be seen independently without any political bias and agenda. Moreover, creating awareness on reproductive health, contraceptives and improving the status of girls and women should be considered some of the top priorities by the government.

Further, the government should also address the over-production and over-consumption of resources by capitalists and then the consumers. To live sustainably, apart from directly controlling the population, reducing the ecological footprints by corporations, governments, and individuals should also be emphasised. And lastly, we as a citizen should be more aware of reproductive health, family planning, and the outstripping of the earth’s natural resources. We need to bring in a change in our socio-economic behaviours.

To conclude, controlling the population is important regardless of how little we consume, or how responsibly a corporation produces. Sooner or later, the earth will run out of its resources because of a large population. And the repercussions of that ecological disaster will directly affect everyone equally, either via more intense and frequent natural disasters or health emergencies like an epidemic or pandemic. The sooner we act, the better it is for us.

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Disclaimer:- This story has not been edited by Modern Shrines Publications and is auto-generated from our News Desk.