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This article is written by Pranav R, pursuing B.Com LLB (Hons) from School of Law, SASTRA University. This exhaustive article deals with population control and its effects.

Introduction

Now there has arisen a scenario wherein the government of a country decides how many children a parent should make. Due to the lack of resources, dilution of welfare programs by the state, and huge problems with the population, there has arisen a need to control the population. China is the biggest example of adopting both the one-child policy and the two-child policy to control the population. Several countries are attempting to control the population by adopting the two-child policy. The effect of such population control is analysed in this article.

Population control policy in China

One child policy control in China

One child policy in China was officially launched during the early 1970s by the government of China with the aim to control the growing population. There was a huge promotion of birth control techniques under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. The one-child policy became widespread in China and officially on September 25, 1980, China mandated the one-child policy. China started implementing its one-child policy in the following ways:

  1. It offered incentives to the family who followed the one-child policy.
  2. Forced abortions and sterilisation of women were prevalent.
  3. Preferential employment to the family who adhered to the one-child family policy.
  4. Popularisation of contraceptive methods to prevent childbirth.
  5. Imposed penalties on people who didn’t follow the one-child policy.

All these measures considerably reduced the growing trend of the population, however, they had negative effects such as reduced sex ratio, sex-selective abortions, abandonment of the female child, and increase in the age gap between males and females, which made marriage impossible. The population of China was ageing due to the age gap which had more senior citizens, who were dependent on their children, as compared to the younger generation.

Two-child policy in China

China slowly relaxed the one-child policy by giving exemption to both parents, who are single children, to apply for a second child. Later in 2013, the rules were relaxed further, wherein any one of the parents having a single child can apply for a second child. Slowly by offering these relaxations, China moved from a single child policy to a two-child policy. The government of China feared for the baby boom but there wasn’t any baby boom.

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Possible effects of China’s newly implemented two-child policy

  • Effects on fertility

Many surveys have identified China to be a low fertility country due to its previous one-child policy. However, most people in urban areas in China prefer to have one child due to the high cost of living and raising children. In rural areas, due to the relaxation granted by the government to ethnic minorities to have three or more children could probably increase the fertility rate which might be very minimal. Many demographers had predicted that there will not be much significant rise in fertility rate, however, it will gain momentum in 2030.

  • Effect on population ageing

Due to the one-child policy, China faces a huge problem of population ageing. Due to the increased age gap, the majority of the population is above the age of 65 years. The current shift to two-child plans will not have a huge effect on population ageing in the short term. Population ageing will reduce only with increased infertility. Population ageing causes huge problems to two groups of people:

  1. The disabled old age people; and
  2. The old-aged parents who don’t have children.

The government should aid their help to these two groups of people who are most vulnerable to psychological and physical health.

  • Natural resources and environment

Already during the era of the one-child policy, China faced a shortage of resources, and basic amenities like land and water dropped to a huge extent. Now China’s shift to a two-child policy is going to have the worst effects on the availability of natural resources to people initially and will increase gradually when the total population decreases in size.

  • Effect on the health sector

An expected rise in childbirth with an increase in fertility rate will demand more health care facilities. Adequate maternal and child care services should be increased to facilitate the growing population. Though, there is adequate personnel in the health care sector, the quality of these services will be the prime issue that needs to be addressed.

  • Effects on population health

The health of the population will considerably improve due to the abolishment of second child abortions. Due to a decrease in sex ratio, the mental breakdown or depression caused to unmarried men will reduce and will improve their health. However, people who have a permanent disability to give birth to children, especially where their parents depend on an offspring for a legacy will have serious consequences on their mental health.

  • Effect on sex ratio

The universal sex ratio in China will tend to reduce, though, very gradually. However, this will still take more years for the sex ratio to become normal. The momentum of sex ratio depends upon the change in the mindset of rural people who prefer a son to a daughter. The two-child policy will stop many social evils like abandoning of female child and sex-selective abortions.

International perspective on the two-child policy

Internationally, many countries initially adopted two-child policy but by fearing the consequence of population ageing, or higher sex ratios, several countries withdrew their two-child policy. However, those countries that have low fertility rates promote their citizens to have more children. Countries such as South Korea, Singapore, Turkey, Japan, France, Paris, have actively encouraged their citizens to have more children. In countries that have fewer resources and a larger population have adopted a two-child policy. 

Child policy in India

India is one of the most populated countries in the world. The population of India has crossed 125 crores, which calls the need to control the population. This section of the article analyses India’s views on and attempts to control the growing population. 

Tracing the history of child policy in India

Let’s go back in time to analyse the idea of child policy in India. The idea of child policy and to control the growing population was a revolutionary idea from the start of the first Five-year plan in 1952. Sanjay Gandhi was the first person in India who highlighted the need to control the population and introduced child policy in India. The policy was not widely accepted as it mandatorily emphasised people to sterilize. The same policy was imposed on people forcibly during the emergency period in Indira Gandhi’s regime where the government-mandated sterilisation. The worst part is that the government aimed to sterilise women, even after knowing that it was easy to sterilise men. 

During 1980, there was a widespread awareness movement to promote two-child policy in India with slogans like  “Hum Do Hamare Do” (We Two Ours Two). In 1994, ironically, India became a signatory to the International Conference on Population and Development Declaration in 1994 which raised the obligation of the country to leave it to choices of people about family planning as it is the individual right of every citizen to decide the number of children they are willing to have.

How legislature  promotes two-child policy 

After this event, India did not enact any national laws to implement two-child policies. However, in 2016 a private member bill was introduced in Lok Sabha by Prahlad Singh Patel. Section 3 read along with Section 7 of the Population Control Bill 2016 imposes the responsibility on every state to promote two-child policy. Section 8 curtails to avail of any ongoing child welfare scheme if a citizen doesn’t follow the two-child policy. However, the government was dissolved before the bill came to the voting stage. Currently, two bills are pending to be discussed in the Lok sabha. The Constitutional amendment bill 2020 which is pending in Rajya Sabha aims to offer incentives in taxation, education, and employment to the citizens who follow the two-child policy. The bill aims to promote two-child policy by inserting a new provision called Article 47A under Part 4 of the Constitution which is the directive principle of state policy. Article 47A intends to withdraw all concessions and other schemes provided by the government to people who do not follow the small family norm. Such withdrawal of basic amenities provided by the state on not following two-child policy violates the Fundamental rights. These policies would be contrary to the right of the citizen to exercise choices and are violative of Article 21 (right to life). Such a policy will also violate the United Nations Convention on Rights of Child. Candidates with more than two children are disqualified for government jobs in  Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. While Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, and Karnataka disallow them from contesting in local body elections. 

Indian two-child policy: coercive or necessary

This section attempts to analyse the necessity for population control through two-child policy and, if necessary, will the country succeed to control the population by adopting coercive methods? In India currently, there is a total fertility rate of 2.2 and the required fertility rate is 2.1. Many states have a fertility rate lower than 2.1. Many states have achieved the target Total fertility rate. However, there is an increase in the number of unwanted fertility which is the prime concern. In spite of so many efforts by the government to control population growth, there has been a huge increase in population. 

Let us first analyze why there is a huge growth in population

  1. There is a greater proportion of people in the marriageable age group.
  2. Due to several improvements in public health, the life expectancy of people has increased.
  3. Lack of education among the people on contraceptives.

Now it is very essential to determine why population growth should be controlled

  1. The demand for resources is higher than the availability of resources.
  2. The high population puts huge stress on resources and reduces the quality of the environment with an increase in pollution rates.
  3. The effectiveness of the welfare schemes implemented in the country gets diluted due to the high population. Due to the high population, it is hard for the government to make welfare schemes more specific to people who are in bad need of it.

Due to these reasons, it is very important for the government to control the population.

Negative effects of population control 

However, if these population control policy is going to be coercive in nature, there will be several negative effects such as:

  1. If child policy is going to be strictly enforced by legislation, it would lead to an increase in sex-selective abortions and would create a great threat to women in society.
  2. Due to sex-selective abortions and the existence of the practice of female infanticide, there will be a huge gender imbalance and the sex ratio will drop enormously. This would create a huge problem, where the males in the majority in number will face difficulty in finding females to marry.
  3. Withdrawal of welfare schemes to the family not following two-child policy norms will violate the fundamental right of the existing children and by withdrawal, the population would become unproductive as, without education and other basic amenities provided by the government, they will not be able to contribute to the Gross Domestic Product of the nation.
  4. There is also a threat of quick ageing of the population which is detrimental to the development of the nation.
  5. The welfare schemes are highly discriminative which negates the very spirit of the 73rd constitutional amendment by preventing women, younger people from participating in the electoral system of the country. 

On analyzing these effects, it is imperative to note that the two-child policy causes greater problems than it aims to solve. Population control is indeed important. However, the adoption of coercive methods will not help to achieve the result of population control. 

Suggestions for achieving population control

  1. Development is the best contraceptive to control the population. Rather than controlling the population, the government should aim to make the existing population and resources more productive. Depriving childbirth will reduce the young blood in the population and have huge gender gaps.
  2. The people in the rural areas should be given more awareness on population control and the government shouldn’t stop their welfare programs, as this will make the existing population productive to contribute to the GDP of the nation.
  3. The government should lay emphasis and create legislation which would influence women for late marriages and sufficient inter generational intervals proves more effective than coercive population control.

Conclusion

The world has learned a big lesson by witnessing the drastic effects which China faced such as high sex ratio, abandonment of the female child, population ageing, etc, on its attempt to control the population. It is very important to note that, rather than facing the consequences of population control which will have a huge long term effect on the country, it is better to opt for the choice of development of infrastructure, education which will accommodate the population growth.  Rather than investing in the population, a country can invest in developing the nation by providing quality education, health care, and other basic amenities to make the existing population more productive which will contribute to the rise in GDP.  It is accepted that a huge population causes many problems and there is an urgent need to control the population. Adoption of coercive methods may prove fatal to the country itself and development is the best contraceptive. 

References 


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