I still possess a two rupee coin with the message ‘Small
Family, Happy Family’ (also Chhota Parivaar, Khusian Apaar in
Hindi) inscribed on it and issued on the World Population Day, July 11, 1993.
The coin carries the picture of a family of four, the parents and two girls,
one holding a set of 11 balloons and the other standing confidently by her
father’s side. The picture conveys the message that it is alright to have two daughters,
both of them happy.
growth has been a cause of worry to the thinkers and policy makers in India. Raghunath
Dhondo Karve, the eldest son of Bharat
Ratna Maharshi Dhondo Keshav Karve, who published
a Marathi magazine titled Samaj Swasthya from July 1927 until 1953,
regularly discussed issues of social welfare and pleaded for population control
through use of contraceptives.
In 1949, the
Family Planning Association (FPA) of India was formed to strengthen a voluntary
commitment to advocate for Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH). Soon
afterwards, Government of India launched a nation-wide Family Planning
Programme in 1952. The programme was given a thrust in 1966, when a separate
department of Family Planning was created under the Ministry of Health. It was
renamed the department of Family Welfare in 1977.
population control programme gathered momentum in 1970s. During the days of
Emergency from 1975 to 1977, there were reports of compulsory sterilization. It
was reported that in September 1976 alone 1.7 million sterilizations were
recorded; the figure equaled the annual average for the ten preceding years.
the programme counted 8.3 million sterilizations, up from 2.7 million the
previous year. Government officials and
the over-enthusiastic youth, in their bid to please Sanjay Gandhi, the then
Prime Minister’s younger son, committed inhuman excesses. But that does not
mean that the basis of the programme was not in the country’s interest. However, the ruthless and inhuman manner in
which it was implemented created public aversion. As a result, a positive
programme fast receded. Today there is no emphasis on the necessity of a small
family and it has become a taboo for politicians.
I was always concerned over the issue of India’s
overpopulation. As a member of Indian delegation, I attended the Asian
Conference of Parliamentarians on Population and Development held in Beijing
and Bangkok in October 1981. I worked hard preparing the background paper which
was presented by the delegation. On July 30, 1982, I moved a non-official
Resolution in Rajya Sabha on the need of setting up an autonomous Commission
for the purpose. The Resolution, which pleaded introduction of uniform civil
code and sought to abolish polygamy and also triple talaaq to divorce a
married Muslim woman, was met with opposition from several members including
Najma Heptulla, and ultimately I had to withdraw it.
It is a good
sign that contraceptive usage as a means to avoid unwanted pregnancies has been
rising in India. In 1970, 13% of married women used modern contraceptive
methods. The figure rose to 35% by 1997 and 48% by 2009. By 1996, the national
family planning programme had been estimated to have averted 168 million
The fertility rate in India has been in long-term decline, and had more
than halved in the 1960-2009 period. From 5.7 in 1966, it declined to 3.3 by
1997 and 2.7 in 2009. In 2009, India had a lower estimated fertility rate than
Pakistan and Bangladesh, but a higher fertility rate than China, Iran, Burma
and Sri Lanka. In 2015, fertility rate in India has been estimated at 2.48,
which is less than Pakistan’s 2.75 but more than Bangladesh’s 2.4 and Sri
an estimate, eleven Indian states have reached the desired 2.1 replacement rate
level or dipped below it. The states
which have high fertility rates include densely populated states like Bihar,
Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Bihar has
a fertility rate of 3.4, the highest of any Indian state. The silver lining is
that all these states have shown a declining trend.
In spite of all the promises
of ache din, poverty remains a grim reality in India. According to
United Nation's Millennium Development Goal (MGD) programme, 270 million or
21.9% people out of 1.2 billion of Indians lived below poverty line in
2011-2012. Poverty alleviation measures implemented by the government are yielding
results only slowly and only for a small fraction of our population.
In the 2014 Human
Development Index (HDI), India’s overall
rank was 135 out of 187 countries surveyed. More than 100 countries were placed
in the ‘High’ or ‘Very High’ human development category. India was bracketed
with over 40 other countries in the Medium Human Development category (index
ranging from 0.550 to 0.700). India’s
score for 2013 was 0.586, up from 0.554 in 2012, 0.519 in 2010 and 0.467 in 2008.
Measures for poverty
reduction in India enjoy only limited success mainly because of the population
explosion. No economic or social growth can
be achieved unless population growth is controlled.
China and India are world’s two most populous countries, accounting for
1.34 billion and 1.21 billion people respectively. The pace of population
growth in the two countries, however, is not similar. China and India record
decadal growth of 5.43 per cent and 17.64 per cent respectively. The gap has
narrowed from 238 million in 2001 to nearly 131million in 2011. If the present
trend continues, India is projected to overtake China in about twenty years.
population rose from 330 million in 1947 (after partition) to 361 million by
1951, 439 million by 1961, 548 million by 1971, 683 million by 1981, 846
million by 1991, 1.028 billion by 2001 and 1.21 billion by 2011. In such a
scenario, India faces an uphill task to push its development initiatives and secure
the welfare of its people. While India accounts for a tiny 2.4 percent of the
world’s surface area, it sustains a huge 17.5 percent of the global population.
It has therefore been necessary to implement family planning measures with all
It is unfortunate that family planning operations do not
always take place under hygienic conditions. On November 8, 2014, 83 women
attended a sterilization camp at Takhatpur in Chhattisgarh’s Bilaspur district.
Over the next two days, 13 of those women died and 20
were hospitalized with serious infections. Reports of such incidents earn a bad name for the programme.
In an essay titled “Population Policy:
Authoritarianism versus Cooperation,” eminent economist and Nobel laureate
Amartya Sen argues that voluntary control or "cooperative" route
seems to act faster than the use of "coercion" in reducing family
size and birth rates. He analyses the 1990-91 data in respect of Kerala and
China to establish that the voluntary method adopted in Kerala was more
effective than the coercive method implemented in China. What mattered in fact
was female literacy, their life expectancy and knowledge of reproductive health.
I have always said that India is a nation of young people. It is
heartening to note that India has more than 50% of its population below the age
of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. It is expected that, by 2020, the
average age of an Indian will be 29 years, compared to 37 for China and 48 for
Japan. The population control programme will not significantly alter the
demography. It will help us produce a skilled workforce and enhance the scope
for better employment opportunities to both our young women and men.
task ahead for us is to end the deprivation which the poor, particularly poor women
in India suffer, by extending education, better nutrition and healthcare and
employment opportunities to them. They must realize the benefits of small
family and must adopt family planning voluntarily to secure the future of their
children. Only a happy family can ensure a happy society, a happy nation. A
small family is a happy family.