Daily Editorial Analysis for 29th December 2022

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India must build awareness on population control


Early in December, two Members of Parliament of the ruling party introduced in the Lok Sabha a private members’ Bill aimed at population control in India. Stating that population rise is the most significant reason for India’s slow rate of development, the Bill argues for an immediate need for population control.

Trend in India’s population

  • The debate and the discourse around India’s rising population is not recent, having begun since Independence. India was among the first nations to address its population problem as early as 1951, raising awareness about the ills of overpopulation.
  • While there has been a significant rise in India’s population, there has also been a sharp decline in India’s total fertility rate (TFR). In 1950, the TFR was at around 5.9%, and is now 2% (fifth round of the National Family Health Survey, or NFHS). There was a steep decline after the 1970s, indicating an inversely proportional relationship between economic prosperity and the fertility rate.
  • The term “total fertility rate” (TFR) refers to the total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime if she were subject to the prevailing rate of age-specific fertility in the population.
  • Replacement-level fertility is defined as a total fertility rate (TFR) of approximately 2.1 children per woman (RLF). A generation is not producing enough children to replace itself, which finally results in a complete decline in population, according to the Total Fertility Rate (TFR), which is lower than 2.1 children per woman.

A politicised debate

  • The debate around the need for population control has been greatly politicised in India. The entirety of this discourse around such a sensitive issue is often reduced to a petty religious issue, and, ultimately, the subject of development suffers.
  • Nearly six months before the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the government and the State Law Commission of Uttar Pradesh came up with a proposed draft Bill, i.e., the Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilisation and Welfare) Bill, 2021. The Bill was perceived as fostering majority appeasement politics and deepening political polarisation.
  • Population is a grave concern in the Hindi heartland, especially Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, but the suggestions were more political than practical. The visible attempt was towards an affirmation of the majoritarian politics being played out. For instance, the Bill said that no government job would be offered to couples with more than two children.
  • However, there was no clarification about what would happen to a person who had a third child after being in a government job or if, for some reason, a person with two children remarried and had a third child.
Present National Population Policy (NPP) 2000

  • It was based on the tenets of voluntary and informed choice, target free approach and achievement of replacement level of fertility.
  • It intended to address contraception, maternal health, and child survival simultaneously.
  • The National Family Planning Programme of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare directs and coordinates the execution of the National Population Policy 2000.

Data shows otherwise

  • NFHS data indicate that although the fertility rate of Muslims is higher than Hindus, the gap between the two has shrunk substantially. In 1992-93, the gap between the Hindu and Muslim fertility rate was 1.1, which now has reduced to 0.35. A close comparison of Census data on average fertility rates is insightful.
  • For instance, in Uttar Pradesh, with around 20% Muslim population, the TFR declined from 5.8% in 1981 to 2.7% in 2011. In Assam, where the Muslim population is about 33%, the TFR is 1.9%. Similarly, in Jammu and Kashmir, where the Muslim population is the majority, the TFR fell from 4.5% in 1981 to 1.4% in 2011. Data also show that Muslims have adopted better family planning measures than Hindus.
  • India’s TFR, 2%, is even lower than the replacement level, signifying a remarkable step in the population control parameters. It is clear that India does not need a law for forced population control.
  • Forced population control measures have not shown promising results in the countries that have implemented them, the most relevant example being India’s immediate neighbour, China. The one-child policy has proved to be disastrous, causing a demographic imbalance. The population of China is aging faster than in any other modern country, owing to the policies of forced population control.

Strengthen the health infrastructure

  • India needs to adopt population control measures. But the focus should be on strengthening public health infrastructure and raising awareness about the need for population control. Any forced control method will impact the rate of aging.
  • United Nations data show that there is a projected rise in the population of older people and a decline in the young population in many countries. Although the trend started in rich countries such as Japan, the trend is now visible in developing countries as well, especially Southeast Asia. Among these trends, implementing forced population control can only have negative consequences.


In order to take advantage of our demographic dividend, India today needs a consensual “population management” approach rather than a coercive one. This could serve as the foundation for our upcoming National Population Policy (2023).

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