The New Draft Population Bill for Uttar Pradesh

Justifying the proposals, the draft bill says: “In Uttar Pradesh, there are the 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 draft bill then emphasises that it is necessary to control and stabilise the population of the state in order to promote sustainable development with more equitable distribution. It is necessary to ensure healthy birth spacing through measures related to augmenting the availability, accessibility, and affordability of quality reproductive health services for achieving the goal of population control, stabilisation and its subsequent welfare in the state, the draft bill says.

As early as 1994, the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (UN 1994); to which India is a signatory, strongly avers that coercion, incentives and disincentives have little role to play in population stabilisation and need to be replaced by the principle of informed free choice.

This principle is also echoed in the National Population Policy 2000, which unequivocally supports a target-free approach and explicitly focuses on education, maternal and child health and survival, and the availability of health-care services, including contraceptive services, as key strategies for population stabilisation.

The population of India, and Uttar Pradesh is on the road to stabilisation regardless of coercive policies such as the two-child norm. The fertility rate for Uttar Pradesh (National Family Health Survey, or NFHS-4) is 2.7, compared to 3.8 10 years ago (NFHS-3). There are many States that have attained the replacement-level fertility rate of 2.1 by NFHS-4 such as Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, etc.

One of the greatest concerns with coercive policies such as the two-child norm is their potential impact upon child sex ratios in a society that has such a high preference for male children. That this concern is only too real is well demonstrated by the example of China that had to detract from its stringent one-child norm, first in favour of a two-child norm and then to remove targets altogether, after experiencing a disastrous reduction in its child sex ratio.

The correlation between poor socioeconomic status and family size also impacts the potentially discriminatory effect of the proposed measures upon communities that house the poorest of the poor, such as the religious minorities and Dalits, as already pointed out by many. Leaving these communities out of political and administrative spaces as well as curtailing their access to welfare is hardly likely to advance any kind of social justice or equity.

Therefore, the focus must be on improving infrastructure of health-care and education in India. Rest assured that population will stabilise soon and there is no need of such stringent measures when the population will decline soon after its peak in few decades.

Aishwarya Says:

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