Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday asserted that educating women was the best remedy for unchecked population growth and that he was not in favour of bringing in laws to achieve the end, in an apparent disapproval of the Uttar Pradesh government’s New Population Policy. He made the remark here in reply to questions from journalists who sought his views on the issue on the occasion of World Population Day when governments in many states, especially those ruled by his ally BJP, spoke in favour of the legislative route.
“I have nothing to say about what other states plan to do. But my conviction, which is backed by experience, has been that things come under control once we take steps to educate the girl child," said the chief minister after winding up his public interaction programme ‘Janata Ke Darbar Mein Mukhyamantri’. He said he was aware that some educated people also fail to implement family planning, but insisted that enforcing population control through law has its own pitfalls.
“Look at China. It first came out with a one-child norm. Then allowed two children. Now there is a rethink on even that," he said. “In Bihar, we have seen the fertility rate fall in about a decade, thanks to the fillip given to increased enrolment of girls in schools and incentives for their greater participation in higher learning.
“My understanding is that population growth in the state would reach a plateau by 2040 and thereafter it may start falling," said Kumar, whose initiatives like free bicycles and uniforms to school-going girls have received much acclaim. The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has released a draft Population Control Bill which seeks to bar couples with more than two children from contesting local bodies elections and receiving subsidies, among other things, while extending incentives for those with two up to two children.
The CM revived his ‘Janta Ke Darbar Mein Mukhyamantri’ programme, launched within a few months of coming to power in 2005, after a gap of nearly two years. He spent nearly six hours patiently listening to and addressing grievances of nearly 150 people who had come from various parts of the state.
Kumar, the de facto leader of the Janata Dal (United), also scoffed at speculations in a section of the media that he was not happy with party president RCP Singh getting a cabinet berth, a reason why he did not come out with any statement congratulating the latter. “Is it even an issue? Of course, I am happy over his induction into the Union cabinet," said Kumar dismissively.
He also reaffirmed his government’s commitment to providing relief to people hit by floods in the northern part of the state.