Population control has been a consistent doctrine for governments in India since practically the earliest days of the republic. But instead of bringing in punitive measures — like China had done — to make couples go for small families, the approach has been to spread awareness about the benefits of family planning. The success of this method is arguable but it is a fact that the national fertility rate has fallen from close to 6 in the 1950s to 2.2 now. However, the gains in population control have not been evenly spread and some states continue to report high fertility rates while others have achieved considerable success in slowing down population growth. Assam and UP believe that they need a two-child policy to check their rising populations. Here’s what you need to know.
Which States Have The Highest Fertility Rates?
Fertility rate indicates the average number of children that each woman will give birth to during her reproductive years. It is assumed that for a country’s population to remain stable, the total fertility rate should be 2.1. What it means is that at 2.1 births per woman a country’s population will remain constant from one generation to another.
India expectedly had a high fertlity rate of 5.9 in the 1950s and, even in the early 2000s saw it stay above 3. However, in the 2010s it saw a considerable decline in the national fertility rate and it stood at 2.2 in 2018, which experts say may be what is needed for India to stay at replacement level as the country has a relatively high child mortality rate.
Among the bigger Indian states, Uttar Pradesh, with its fertility rate of 2.9, is second only to Bihar (3.3) when it comes to number of births by each woman in her reproductive years. Assam has a fertility rate of 2.2, but Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said that “population explosion in some parts… has posed a real threat to the development of the state".
What Have Assam And UP Announced?
Population control has been a focus area for the BJP government in Assam and in 2017 the state Assembly had adopted a resolution titled the ‘Population and Women Empowerment Policy of Assam’ that proposed a bar on people with more than two children from getting government jobs and other benefits. In 2019, the state government had announced that from 2021 it would not permit people with more than two children to apply for government jobs.
“We will slowly implement population norms for government schemes. There are some schemes for which we cannot impose the two-child norm, like availing free admission in schools and colleges, or for houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana; everyone will get that,” Sarma had said last week.
Reports said the state government may bring in legislation to give effect to the 2017 resolution and also make only those with two children or less eligibile for some government schemes. Assam already has rules in place barring people with more than two children from contesting local body elections.
As for UP, the BJP government there has come up with a draft Population (Control, Stabilization and Welfare) Bill, 2021, that proposes to disqualify people with more than two children from contesting local body polls and applying for or receiving promotion in government jobs or any kind of government subsidy.
The UP draft, which is open for comments from the public till July 19, also seeks to incentivise people for embracing family planning by proposing that government employees who adhere to the family planning norm will get two additional increments during their service period, maternity or paternity leave of 12 months and three per cent increase in the employer’s contribution under national pension scheme.
Which Other States Have A Two-Child Policy?
Several states in India have rules that push a two-child policy. For example, in Rajasthan, those with more than two children are not eligible for government jobs while the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, bars such people from contesting panchayat elections.
Madhya Pradesh has since 2001 stipulated that people who have a third child born after that year will not be eligible for govenment employment. But a similar rule for candidates in local body elections was nixed in 2005. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana both have introduced a similar requirement for candidates in panchayat elections. Since 2005, Gujarat has disqualified people with more than two children from fighting panchayat or civic body polls. Uttarakhand and Odisha, too, have similar laws.
Maharashtra has a rule that a person is not eligible for a job with the state government if he or she has more than two children after 2005.