Political rhetoric on population control must be based on empirical numbers

Political rhetoric on population control must be based on empirical numbers obtained by scientific methods

The Editorial Board


Posted on 29.11.21, 03:35

India’s burgeoning population has long been a thorn in the side of its progress. The recent findings of the National Family Health Survey-5 are therefore a breath of fresh air: they revealed that India’s total fertility rate – the average number of children born to a woman – is decreased from 2.2 in 2015-2016 to 2.0, 2 being an “accurate indicator” of long-term population stability. The overall sex ratio has also improved, registering more females than males. Clearly, decades of effort by successive governments to educate the masses about population control has paid off. The fact that the contraceptive prevalence rate has increased and unmet need for family planning has decreased also testifies to the success of large-scale structural interventions, such as awareness campaigns, education and incentives. Encouragingly, Bengal recorded a TFR of 1.6, well below the national average. This could perhaps be attributed to grassroots activism, particularly in rural areas – experts cited increased labor participation and awareness among rural women. In addition to women’s empowerment, the correlation between TFR and poverty should also be explored. The states that reported the highest TFR – Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, for example – also topped the Niti Aayog Multidimensional Poverty Index.

The figures reveal that India is responding, albeit slowly, to persuasive rather than coercive measures – since the 1990s, 12 states have introduced some version of the two-child policy, but without sufficient evidence of its effectiveness. Yet earlier this year the governments of Uttar Pradesh and Assam, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, proposed population control bills. It is also revealing that, more often than not, the bogeyman of the “population explosion” targets religious minorities. Clearly, the agenda is to deepen communal division – the BJP’s favorite electoral tool – under the guise of welfare. Otherwise, why would the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh – Yogi Adityanath is a candidate for re-election next year – continue to slander the Muslim population for the scarcity of resources in the state when Hindus make up almost 80% of its population? It is clear that policies and political rhetoric must be based on empirical numbers obtained by scientific methods to put an end to the toxic theories propagated by agenda-driven political parties.