This article is written by Neha Patel, a 4th-year law student at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun.
Population plays a major role in a society when we talk about growth be it individual growth, economic, social growth, development and also the availability of opportunities to the people. Over- Population has posed a great hindrance to the development of society and it has not only become a particular country’s issue but a global problem, which cannot be ignored.
As it has been rightly said by Henry W. Kendall– “If we do not voluntarily bring population growth under control in the next one or two decades, nature will do it for us in the most brutal way, whether we like it or not”. Relating this with the current situation happening all around the world, that is, the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to a tremendous loss of human life worldwide and affected the health, food systems and world of work, education especially the poverty-stricken, vulnerable ones because of the majority lack of social protection and access to quality health care. As for the destitute ones, no income means no food or less food or less nutritious food. Though the above quote in a way support the Bill when it comes to present circumstances, the question arises is the Bill – the only solution left or is it just a shift of blame on the people? Through this article, the author is trying to shed some light on the reasons behind the coming up of this bill and how it can raise doubt in the minds of the common people.
About the Bill
Law is dynamic as it needs amendments, changes, abrogation according to the needs and circumstances, and welfare of the society. The Subject matter of ‘population’ control and family planning is included in the Concurrent List of Indian Constitution on which both the Centre and State legislature has the power to legislate. Recently, on World Population Day – 11th July 2021 – Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath unveiled the new “Population Policy 2021- 2030” to steady the growing population within the State. It has the aim of bringing the gross fertility rate in the State of Uttar Pradesh down from the existing 2.7 to 2.1 by the year 2026. The draft Bill regarding population control, which promotes a 2-child policy and aims at providing incentives to the families who adhere to the policy and it will disentitle the ones who breach it so this Bill has both incentives and disincentives. The draft Bill aims at providing basic necessities to human life including affordable food, safe drinking water, decent housing, access to quality education, economic/livelihood opportunities, power/electricity for domestic consumption, etc.”This policy will be applicable to a married couple where the boy is above 21 years of age and the girl is above 18 and the policy will be voluntary which cannot be enforced upon anyone.
What if the two-child norm becomes a policy
There are two sides of the same coin so there always exists two different perspectives of the same thing. Though population hampers the growth of the society, will this policy really take Uttar Pradesh in the direction of ‘Vikas’ or will it be the opposite?
It has been promised by Uttar Pradesh government that it will give promotions, increments, concessions in housing schemes and other perks like the public servants who adhere to the policy, and have two or fewer children will be getting two additional increments during the entire period of their service, maternity or as the case may be, paternity leave of 12 months, along with full salary and allowances and 3% increment in the employer’s contribution fund under the National Pension Scheme. But the question arises whether people on the ground level would be able to avail these opportunities as it happens often that the number of funds released by the Government gets decreased till it reaches to the citizens.
Education and awareness
In today’s world, it is very crucial to get a quality education for the continuous growth and development of society. The right to education is one of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Article 21A of the Indian Constitution. In the case of State Of Tamil Nadu & Ors v. K Shyam Sunder & Ors, it was held that “right of a child should not confines only to free and compulsory education, but should be enhanced to have quality education without any discrimination on the basis of their economic, social and cultural background.” The size of the Family has a great impact on educational achievement in households where schooling is available but expensive. The connection between poverty and education is especially relevant for girls. Girls from large families with comparatively fewer resources are the least likely to attend school. The NFHS (National Family Health Survey)-4 data on birth order showed that the highest proportions of births were among women with no schooling. The draft bill also mentions the introduction of a compulsory subject on population control in all secondary schools. Bill also aims at establishing maternity centres at all primary health centres that will distribute contraceptives like pills and condoms and also spread awareness about family planning methods through community health workers.
A healthy mind exists in a healthy body. The excessive growth in the population has resulted in issues like urban crowding and environmental changes that have resulted in the emergence of many infectious diseases. Overpopulation adds to the inability of governments to scale up health care systems and facilities. This problem can be solved by spreading awareness among the people about family planning and education about overpopulation, enacting birth control measures and regulations, and providing universal access to birth control devices. More availability and equitable distribution will be there. Less population will amplify the reach of resources to a comparatively more number of people in the State, which will result in a happy and healthy society.
The less the population, the less will be the pollution and more cleaner will be the environment as the Right to a healthy environment has been held as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution. Where there is a right, there comes a duty as Article 51A(g) envisages the fundamental duty of the State to protect and improve the natural environment. A developing country is the most vulnerable one when it comes to the effects of overpopulation on the environment as they are interlinked with each other. As with the increase in population, there will be depletion in the number of resources including plants and animals due to consumption resulting in more exposure to air pollution, diseases, and a decrease in access to clean water.
As the increasing population has been a bane for the country, data shows that the trend of population rise is reversing in many States including Uttar Pradesh. As per National Family Health Survey data, the country-level TFR (Total Fertility Rate) in India is 2.23, which is not hugely above the desired level of 2.1.
Infringement of Rights
In the case of Suchita Srivastava & Anr. v. Chandigarh Administration, The Apex Court observed that a woman’s freedom to make reproductive decisions is an integral facet of the right to personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21 and quoted “to recognise that reproductive choices can be exercised to procreate as well as to abstain from procreating”. In the case of K.S. Puttaswamy v. UOI, it was observed that the Constitution sees a person’s autonomy over her body as an extension of the right to privacy. But the restrictions if placed on this right must conform to a doctrine of proportionality. The bill provides certain incentives to public servants who undergo sterilisation and adopt the two-child norm hence it impinges on the right to reproductive freedom of the citizens.
Being a patriarchal society like India, when there is not any existence of a restriction on the number of children one can have, then also there is massive discrimination on the basis of gender resulting in sex-selective abortion. The preference for sons both in rural as well as urban India is well documented. A legal restriction to two children could force couples to engage in sex-selective abortion since there are only two ‘attempts’ to conceive. A study was conducted between 2001 and 2004 to explore the results of implementing two-child norms in 5 states (Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, MP, Odisha and Rajasthan) and found relatively more number of offences like bigamy and desertion, neglect and death of female infants, cases of pre-natal sex determination. The already skewed sex ratio may be compounded by families aborting a daughter in the hope of having a son with the view to conform to the two-child policy. It can worsen the sex- ratio fuelling economic disparity.
Imbalance in the Society
This Bill can cause an imbalance in the future in turn affecting the economic growth of the society. For example- China had enforced the one-child policy norm in the 1980s. However, it was forced to abandon the policy because of the skyrocketing aged dependents, insufficient people of working-age, and a huge excess of aged people needing costly medical care. China now encourages couples to have more children to maintain balance.
Underprivileged section of the society
In rural areas, due to lack of education, early marriage, limited access to contraception and the need for extra labour, the poor are expected to have large families in order to combat their need for extra labour and hence resulting increase in the overall population of society. This policy can be a bane to this section as most of the poor and middle-class families have more than two children, which is against the 2 child- norm policy hence they will be deprived of getting benefits out of the government schemes. This is the section that is in dire need of these government schemes the most but they will be the ones to get deprived of. The policy may act as coercion to these people as providing benefits with a condition that cannot be termed as welfare act.
China: Reasons for failure of One-child policy
For a long, China has been known for having the largest population in the world. In the 1970s, China realised that the unlimited growth of population was posing a hindrance to economic growth and leading to a lack of resources. China had implemented a one-child policy that stipulated that each couple can have only one child. The unprecedented one-child policy soon proved to be enormously unpopular and challenging due to the traditional belief in big families, the burgeoning market transition, and increasingly mobile and diverse society. According to the Chinese population census of 1990, we can estimate the treatment effect on the probability of being a boy to be as large as 1.01 % points for the 1980-1990 birth cohorts. It can be concluded from this that strict enforcement of the one-child policy casually increased the sex ratio by 4.4, which accounts for about 94% of the increase in sex ratios during this period. The one-child policy accounted for about a 57% increase in sex ratios for the 1991-2000 and a 54% increase for the 2001-2005 birth cohorts. Besides gender imbalance at birth, the female child mortality rate also increased. The policy of one-child intensified the gender-based discrimination in birth decisions which was facilitated by illegal ultrasound gender tests and sex-selective abortions. There were also various inconsistencies in the implementation of the policy like government officials were bribed by rich people to give approval of an extra birth.
Similarly, in India due to existence of traditionally rooted patriarchy and a major gap between rich and poor in the society can lead to an increase in sex-selective abortions, imbalance in sex-ratio and improper implementation of the two-child policy. It is necessary that students, being future pillars of the world, should be provided with gender-neutral knowledge and awareness regarding population control.
The population is a hindrance to the development of society and it is the need of the hour that people be aware of the methods and the need to control them. The problems prevalent in the society are in some way linked with each other like poverty leads to lack of education leads to lack of awareness which leads to lack of knowledge about contraceptive measures hence resulting in an increase in population, lack of resources, etc. There is a need for sex education among all the age groups of our society which can play an important role in awareness and population growth prevention methods. Yes, it is the duty of the Government to make laws for the benefit of society but before that, it is very necessary to understand the aim and motive behind the law. It is rightly said by Jeremy Bentham, who gave the principle of utilitarianism- Law should be made with the purpose of maximum benefit and minimum pain to the people. Similarly, A law cannot satisfy everyone but it must be taken care that at least it satisfies the Maximum.
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