The recent Uttar Pradesh’s draft population Bill is deemed to violate privacy, be unnecessary, and also discriminating.
Data reveals that there is a myth of India’s population explosion while at the same time, the draft Bill aims to disproportionately affect Muslim families in Uttar Pradesh and to many, it looks like an election campaign stunt to propagate his push for development. However, experts say its population growth – like India’s – is already slowing and there is absolutely no need for this bill.
While Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state, home to over 220 million people, has long been a governance difficulty and has consistently ranked low on development indices. But the motive of the bill is controversial while striking to curb birth control will have many repercussions.
The entire motive of the Bill is caught in the words of the Bill which read as below:
“In Uttar Pradesh, there are limited ecological and economic resources at hand. It is necessary and urgent that the provision of basic necessities of human life including affordable food, safe drinking water, decent housing, access to quality education, economic/livelihood opportunities, power/electricity for domestic consumption, and a secure living is accessible to all citizens.”
The bill proposes denying government jobs, promotions, subsidies, and the right to contest local elections to anyone who has more than two children.
However, official tallies reveal that India’s population is not exploding – on average, women in most states have been having fewer children than before, effectively flattening the growth curve.
Experts have cautioned against a “coercive” two-child policy that denies women agency and further increases unsafe or sex-selective abortions, given the prejudiced overwhelming preference for sons.
“UP has an 18% unmet need for contraception – instead of disempowering women further, we should be ensuring that they have access to a wide basket of contraceptive devices,” Ms. Muttreja said.
Nearly half of the world’s countries have seen an unusual decline in fertility rates. By 2070, the global fertility rate is expected to drop below replacement levels, according to the UN.
China’s fertility rate had dropped to 1.3 in 2020, while India’s was 2.2 at the last official count in 2016. In fact, there is a dying out of the younger generation in China.
Dr KS James, director of the International Institute of Population Sciences, said, “Also, our cities are overcrowded and ill-planned. They convey an image of over-population,”
In recollection, in 2018, more than 125 MPs wrote to the president asking for the implementation of a two-child norm. The same year the Supreme Court dismissed several petitions seeking population control measures as it could lead to a “civil war-like situation”. In the last year, three MPs from Mr. Adityanath’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) introduced bills in parliament to control the population.
Since the early 1990s, 12 states have introduced some version of the two child-policy.
How Will It Work?
Different states implemented different versions of it – some left open ends, and others introduced financial incentives alongside the disciplinary punishments for having more than 2 children.
A study in five of the states showed a rise in unsafe and sex-selective abortions, and men divorcing their wives or giving up their children for adoption bringing an unsteady situation in homes.
“India is at a perfect stage as far as population distribution is concerned,” Niranjan Saggurti, director of the Population Council’s office in India stated.
Experts say India has entered a demographic dividend – the capacity of a young and active workforce to spring back economies out of poverty.
“We need to invest in education and health systems,” Ms Muttreja said. “We can learn from Sri Lanka, which increased the marriageable age for girls, or from Bangladesh and Vietnam, which enabled a basket of non-permanent contraceptives to reach women on their doorstep.”
Political analysts also guess that UP’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, with an eye on state elections slated for next year hopes to push in a development agenda to remove his controversial image as a divisive right-wing Hindu nationalist. However, again, his move comes across as another controlling one and does not redeem his image at the moment.