'Population Explosion': The myth that refuses to go -Sarojini Nadimpally
Even more dangerously, demographically driven population regulation measures, ignore women's rights over their own bodies.
The spectre of population control has emerged to haunt us yet again. The Prime Minister of India, in his Independence Day speech on the August 15, expressed concern about “population explosion creating various problems for the coming generations” and complemented those who “follow the policy of the small family” as contributing to the development of the country, commending it as a form of patriotism.
In the past too, “population explosion” has been perceived and articulated as a primary cause of poverty, unemployment, ill-health, lack of education, environmental degradation, climate change and even traffic jams in cities.
The bogey of “population explosion” has, over the past 73 years, held sway in the country with successive governments having consistently deployed it to impose incentives or disincentives across sectors – from local governance, to health care, education, agriculture, and so on – for those who do or do not adhere to the two child norm respectively.
Over 30 private member Bills regarding population control introduced in parliament since Independence – both lapsed and some pending since – are evidence of this.
Very recently, on July 12, 2019, MP Rakesh Sinha, tabled ‘The Population Regulation Bill’ in the Rajya Sabha. The Bill stipulates several incentives for families that have no more than two children. These include income tax rebates and free healthcare for parents, subsidies and loans for plots and houses. The Bill identifies penalties for contravening the norm, including reduced access to the public distribution system (PDS), higher interest rates on loans, lower interest on savings and disqualification from being an elected representative.
The Bill also suggests that government employees should give an undertaking that they will not have more than two children. In fact, in 2016, the Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment (ironically), had announced in the context of scholarship for students (from marginalised communities) that “not more than two children of the same parents or guardians will be eligible”.
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