UPSC MAINS 2019 : Having the last word on ‘population control’

Having the last word on ‘population control’

Topic : Having the last word on ‘population control’

Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 2: International Affairs



Having the last word on ‘population control’

On July 11, World Population Day, a Union Minister expressed alarm, in a Tweet, over what he called the “population explosion” in the country, wanting all political parties to enact population control laws and annulling the voting rights of those having more than two children.


However, the recently launched Economic Survey notes that India is set to witness a “sharp slowdown in population growth in the next two decades”. The fact is that by the 2030s, some States will start transitioning to an aging society as part of a well-studied process of “demographic transition” which sees nations slowly move toward a stable population as fertility rates fall with an improvement in social and economic development indices over time.



National population policy 2000

  • A far-sighted and forward-looking National Population Policy (NPP) was introduced in 2000 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister.
  • The National Population Policy (NPP), introduced in 2000, did not impart mandatory enforcement in family planning.
  • It suggested for voluntary and informed choice while availing of reproductive health care services along with family planning without any cap on number of children


New proposal to control population in India:

  • In recent past also, a prominent businessman-yoga guru wanted the government to enact a law where “the third child should not be allowed to vote and enjoy facilities provided by the government”. This, according to him, would ensure that people would not give birth to more children.
  • However, this proposal is contradictory to earlier population policies in India.


Effects of this proposal

  • The number of children a woman has are closely related with the levels of health and education of the parents.
  • The poor tend to have more children due to low child survival, high son preference and fulfilment of economic and emotional needs of the family.
  • Considering the above fact, the opinion of penalizing third child can convert into a religious conflict adversely affecting poor and the minorities against the more privileged sections.

Period of demographic dividend in large economies


Reasons for population explosion

  • As per National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16), women in the lowest wealth group have an average of 1.6 more children than women in the highest wealth group.
  • Women with no schooling have an average 3.1 children, compared with 1.7 children for women with 12 or more years of schooling.
  • States with high population growth have the lowest per capita availability of hospital beds.
  • This shows the connections between health, education and inequality with those having little access to health and education leading to more and more children.
  • The poor tend to have more children due to low child survival, high son preference and fulfilment of economic and emotional needs of the family.
  • There should be a clear understanding that offering choices and services rather than outright state control works best.


Scars of the past

  • The NPP 2000 uses the word “control” just thrice: in references to the National AIDS Control Organisation; to prevent and control communicable diseases, and control of childhood diarrhoea.
  • This is the spirit in which India has looked at population so that it truly becomes a thriving resource; the life blood of a growing economy.
  • Turning this into a problem that needs to be controlled is exactly the kind of phraseology, mindset and possibly action that will spell doom for the nation.
  • It will undo all the good work that has been done and set the stage for a weaker and poorer health delivery system exactly the opposite of what a scheme such as Ayushman Bharat seeks to achieve.
  • Today, as many as 23 States and Union Territories, including all the States in the south region, already have fertility below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman. So, support rather than control works.


Way forward

  • The damage done when mishandling issues of population growth is long lasting. Let us not forget that the scars of the Emergency are still with us.
  • The present government supports the idea of voluntary and target free family panning in India.
  • The government now mostly works with woman and child health programmes. Mistakes of the Emergency-kind are not what a new government with a robust electoral mandate might like to repeat.
  • So it is time to ask some of the prejudiced voices within the government and ruling party not to venture into terrain they may not fully understand.


Sample Question

There should be a clear understanding that offering choices and services rather than outright state control works best. In light of this statement discuss about population control in India.



Having the last word on ‘population control’ infograph