Health Minister Mandaviya said no to BJP MP’s bill on population control: Awareness, not coercion

New Delhi: Opposing the bill of a private member of a party MP, which sought imposition of the two-child rule with penal provisions for violation, the government told the Rajya Sabha on Friday that Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told the Rajya Sabha. Instead of using “force (coercion),” had successfully used awareness and health campaigns to achieve population control.

BJP MP Rakesh Sinha introduced his Population Regulation Bill in the Rajya Sabha in July 2019. He withdrew the bill on Friday following Mandaviya’s intervention.

Mandaviya listed the impact of family planning programs in various indicators, including a reduction in the total fertility rate (TFR) – the average number of children per woman – to 2.0 nationally. He quoted National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-V and Census data to establish that the rate of population growth has been declining steadily.

“When we talk about the NFHS and look at the census, we can see the success that we have achieved. In 1971, the average annual exponential growth was 2.20; 2.14 in 1991; 1.97 in 2001; and 1.64 in 2011. It shows that there has been a decline in population growth, and a further decline. The growth rate seen between the 60s and 80s has decreased significantly. This is a good sign. The total fertility rate in NFHS-V has come down to 2.0.

Mandaviya highlighted the decline in teen birth rate and adolescent marriage by 6.8 percent and 23.3 percent, respectively. “This indicates that the policies of the government on population control without using coercion, or making it mandatory, and working through awareness… I request him (Sinha), we will try to fulfill your objectives. We are trying to work in the direction so that all sections, communities get the best opportunities to develop. I request you to withdraw the Bill.”

Withdrawing his bill, Sinha expressed confidence that due to the serious efforts being made by the government in this regard, “we will be able to control our population irrespective of caste, religion, language and district”. “Our (government) efforts are being made in a constitutional manner. We do not want to repeat the emergency,” he said.

Sinha said he did not use the words Hindu or Muslim in his bill but should not hesitate to use “facts” while discussing an issue. “The use of words Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Parsi does not make it unconstitutional,” he said. “Between 1901 and 2011, the Hindu population decreased by 13.8 percent, while the Muslim population increased by 9.8 percent. this is true. I don’t want to comment on whether this growth is good or bad, but you can’t shy away from facts.”

BJP members KJ Alphons, Vijay Pal Singh Tomar and Harshvardhan Singh Dungarpur, who spoke to Mandaviya earlier, supported the bill as they questioned the population growth rate of a particular community.

Opposing the bill, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh said the country has reached replacement level of fertility. “After two generations, the population will remain stable or start declining. Rakesh Sinha’s bill is based on a completely flawed assumption. Except in the most unfortunate period of Emergency, India’s family planning has been based on democratic means,” he said.