Thiruvananthapuram: The proposed plan of the Kerala government to control population has come under severe criticism. It recommends a fine of Rs 10,000 for couples who have more than two children.
The controversial change in the approach to family planning is being mooted in one of India's most progressive states.
One of the proposals in the draft of the Kerala Women's Code Bill calls for punishing the family that has more than two children by a fine of Rs 10,000 or three months in jail.
The proposal is a first for any state in India and the protests have already begun to fly thick and fast, especially from minority communities.
"It is a violation of parental rights, cannot be accepted," said Fr Stephen Alathara, spokesperson, Kerala Catholic Bishops Council.
The bill also recommends a 10-member commission of eminent personalities to monitor population growth.
Apart from these, parents with more than two children will be regarded as 'legally disqualified persons' and will not receive state benefits.
Another recommendation of the bill is that religious and political outfits cannot discourage family planning.
"Bill is a meaningful solution to population explosion, it should be welcomed. It benefits the basic rights of children to grow in a healthy environment," said Rajan, the Commission on Rights and Welfare and Children.
However, the government feels it is too early to protest the bill.
"It is only in the embryo stage now, not finished the gestation period. It will have to be discussed in various forums now. Groups will express their opinion. Then only the government can make a rule on it. An act can be passed in the assembly only after holding these discussions," said Kerala Social Welfare Minister M K Muneer.
Observers say the bill as it stands now has virtually no chance of being passed, especially since the Congress-run government in the state depends on religious minorities.
The protests cannot be taken lightly by a minority-heavy government. As the bill is already mired in controversy, focus should now be on a healthy public debate.