The UN report released on Monday, World Population Day, which showed that India is set to overtake China as the world’s most populous country by 2023, has found itself caught in the political crosshairs.
Leaders of all parties have weighed in on the population debate – Have fertility rates increased? Does population have an impact on development? Is there a population explosion? Who’s getting fat? And if the population increased, what would be the quality of life?
Addressing a meeting in Lucknow on Monday to mark the start of a fortnight of population control, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said: “It should not happen that the speed of growth population or the percentage of certain communities is high, and we stabilize the population of the moolniwasi (indigenous people) through awareness raising or law enforcement.
Warning of “negative impact on religious demography” in the event of jan sankhiki asantulan (imbalance of population), Adityanath said it could lead to “avayvastha (disorder)” and arajakta (lawlessness).” Therefore, when we talk about population stabilization, it should be uniform for everyone and above caste, religion, language or region.”
As part of previous attempts by the government led by Adityanath, the UP Law Commission in August 2021 submitted a draft Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilization and Welfare) Bill, 2021, for encourage families to follow a two-child standard. On population day last year, the CM unveiled a population policy for Uttar Pradesh 2021-2030 aimed at reducing the crude female fertility rate to 2.1 by 2026 and to 1, 9 by 2030. The proposed bill had been criticized for its “preference for punishment as a means of population control”.
Union Minister Giriraj Singh on Monday pleaded for a tough law to control the country’s population, calling it “an obstacle to development”. In a video statement shared on Twitter, Singh said, “We have limited resources. Our population expands like the mouth of Sursa (a female demon). The vikrit mansikta (evil state of mind) from which a person gives birth to 10 children cannot be allowed.
“BJP’s ally in Bihar, Janata Dal (United), has taken a different stance on the issue. On June 6, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar hit back at Union Minister Prahlad Patel’s June 1 comment that the BJP would introduce a population control law saying that “nothing will happen just by making laws. Work should be done in such a way that it becomes part of nature. Everyone should see what happened after the enactment of the population control law in China”.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav carried the conversation forward while chairing a meeting where delegates from his party, CPI-ML, CPI, CPI(M) and Congress jointly declared their support for Yashwant Sinha for the presidential elections scheduled for July 18.
Speaking to reporters after the event, he said the increase in population does not necessarily translate into poor performance on economic or development indicators. “Despite being the most populous country, China is ahead of India in terms of economy, GDP and development. Shouldn’t that spark a debate? If population growth is a threat, then why is China doing so well?
Against BJP claims that there has been a “population explosion”, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi tweeted that India’s fertility rate had fallen below replacement level. “The concern is to ensure a healthier and more productive young population, which (the) Modi government has failed miserably on,” Owaisi said.
On #WorldPopulationDay, Sanghis will spend time spreading fake news. The truth is that Indian youths and children face a bleak future under Modi’s rule. At least half of young Indians are unemployed. India is home to the highest number of malnourished children in the world 1/2
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) July 11, 2022
He added, “Sanghis will spend time spreading fake news. The truth is that Indian youths and children face a bleak future under Modi’s rule. At least half of young Indians are unemployed. India is home to the highest number of malnourished children in the world”.
On the occasion of #WorldPopulationDaybe sensitive to issues of population growth and inculcate informed reproductive choices.
Or #Stay Single like me and together we can contribute to a sustainable future.
Come join the singles movement today. pic.twitter.com/geAKZ64bSr
— Temjen Imna Along (@AlongImna) July 11, 2022
Temjen Imna Along, Minister of Higher and Technical Education in the Nagaland government of which the BJP is an ally, advocated celibacy and joining the “singles movement”. “On #WorldPopulationDay, let’s be sensitive to the challenges of population growth and inculcate informed choices about childbearing. Or #StaySingle like me and together we can contribute to a sustainable future. Come join the singles movement today today,” he tweeted on Monday.
Samajwadi party leader Akhilesh Yadav responded to Adityanath’s comments by posting a tweet on Tuesday, in which he said, “Anarchy is not the result of the people, but of the destruction of democratic values.”
Shafiqur Rehman Barq, an MP for the Samajwadi party, accused the Uttar Pradesh government of viewing population growth from a “special lens” in order to secure votes in the 2024 general election. Speaking to reporters on Monday, Barq said, “Instead of considering a law to curb population growth, the government should pay attention to education and make appropriate provision for everyone, whether poor, big or small”.
(with PTI entries)