A positive population policy which aims at reducing the birth rate and ultimately stabilising the growth rate of population. In India, where the majority of people are illiterate, fatalist, and custom-ridden, and do not believe in family planning, only the government’s initiative can help in controlling population growth.
High growth rate of population has been one of the major problems facing India. India with only 2.4 per cent of the global surface area sustains 102.7 crore population which is 16.7 per cent of the world population, as on March 1, 2001. With the process of development since 1951, the death rate has declined below 8 per thousand whereas the birth rate continues to be around 25 per thousand.
Consequently, the population growth rate remains at a very high level of about 2 per cent. The addition of 18.1 crore persons to India’s population between 1991-2001 was more than the population of Brazil, the fifth most populous country of the world.
This frightening growth rate of population has aggravated the problems of poverty, unemployment and inequalities. There has been a gross neglect of social sectors like primary education, basic health and social security. India’s resources are fast depleting due to rising demand. There has been degradation of environment.
Before independence, the Britishers did not consider population growth as a problem. Their attitude towards birth control was one of indifference because they never wanted to interfere with the values, beliefs, customs and traditions of Indians. That is why this phase is called the Period of Indifference.
However, the intelligensia in India was aware of the problem of growing population and did advocate birth control. Among them P.K. Wattal was the pioneer who wrote a book on Population Problem in India in 1916, followed by R.D. Karve, Rabindranath Tagore, P.N. Sapru, Jawaharlal Nehru and Bhore Committee among others who advocated birth control.
Gandhiji also favoured birth control but emphasised natural methods like self-control or abstinence and safe period instead of artificial methods of birth control. Prof. Gunnar Myrdal wrote about this period thus: “During the last time of British colonialism, the intelligensia prepared background thoughts related to birth control. The logical and systematic policies of birth control were put in force after independence.”
Five-Year Plans by the Government of India for population control
First Five Year Plan: India is the first country in the world to begin a population control programme in 1952. It emphasized the use of natural devices for family planning.
Second Five Year Plan: Work was done in the direction of education and research and the clinical approach was encouraged.
Third Five Year Plan: In 1965, the sterilization technique for both men and women was adopted under this plan. The technique of copper- T was also adopted. An independent department called the Family Planning Department was set up.
Fourth Five-Year Plan: All kinds of birth control methods (conventional and modern) were encouraged.
Fifth Five Year Plan: Under this plan the National Population Policy was announced on 16 April, 1976. In this policy, the minimum age for marriage determined by the Sharda Act, 1929 was increased. It increased the age for boys from 18 to 21 years and for girls from 14 to 18 years. The number of MPs and MLAs was fixed till the year 2001 on the basis of the census 1971. Under this Plan, forced sterilization was permitted which was later on given up. In 1977, the Janata Party government changed the name of Family Planning Department to Family Welfare Department.
In the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Plans, efforts were done to control population by determining long-term demographic aims.
Ninth Five-Year Plan: In 1993, the government had established an expert group under the chairmanship of M.S. Swaminathan for formulating national population policy. Though this group had prepared the draft of the new population policy in 1994, it was reviewed in 1999 by the Family Welfare Department and was passed by the Parliament in 2000. The Central Government formulated the ‘new national population policy’ in February 2000. This policy has three main objectives:
Objectives of Ninth Five Year Plan
- Temporary objective: The easy supply of birth control devices was included in it. Besides, the development of health protection framework and recruitment of health workers were also made a part of it.
- Middle-term objective:Under it, the total fertility rate (TFR) had to bring down to the replacement level of 2.1 by 2010.
- Long-term objective:Under it, the Objective of population stabilization by 2045 is to be achieved.
The population has to be stabilised at that level which must be harmonious from the points of view of economic and social development and environmental protection.
It has been announced in the new population policy to keep the composition of the Lok Sabha unchanged by 2026 so that the states could co-operate without any fear. Under current provisions, the number of MPs in different states by 2001 has been determined on the basis of the census 1971. It was to be changed in 2001 on the basis of the new census report (2001). But it might be harmful to those states which had taken part in the population control programme with great fervour. Those states which had not laid proper attention on population control could get more shares in the Lok Sabha resulting in wrong effect on the population control programme. So, the Lok Sabha would not have more than 553 elected seats till 2026 and the number of Lok Sabha seats of each state would remain the same as it is at present. While announcing this new policy, the Central Health Minister said that the people living below poverty line would be rewarded properly if they would marry after 21 years, adopt the standard of two children and undergo sterilisation after two children.
The following major Objectives had been set in the National Population Policy till the year 2010:
- The ‘total fertility rate’ to be reduced to 2.1.
- The high class birth control services had to be made available publically so that the standard of two children could be adopted.
- The infant mortality rate had to be reduced to 30 per thousand.
- The mother mortality rate had also to be reduced to below 100 per one lakh.
- The late marriage of girls had to be encouraged.
A high level 100-membered National Population Commission has been set up under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister on 11 May 2000 to supervise and analyse the implementation of this new population policy.