Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilization and Welfare) Bill, 2021: A Critical Analysis – JURIST – Commentary

Sanjica Kumar and Vedica Nigam, students at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow, India critically examine the Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilization and Welfare) Bill 2021 ) and make suggestions for its improvement…

introduction

On July 7, 2021, the Law Commission of Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India, released a Population Control Bill. The Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilization and Welfare) Bill 2021 in line with the 2022 elections in the state is meant to be a draconian draft to control the population of the state. The bill came as no surprise as many believed it was high time some measures were needed to control the rapidly growing population. The government of Uttar Pradesh, led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a “revolutionary leader and legislator”, has opted for heavy-handed tactics instead of non-coercive measure to achieve this goal of population control. The poorly drafted bill is also critical for being discriminatory, unconstitutional, dangerous and a set of threats for many.

the objective of the bill is to reduce the state’s fertility rate to 2.1 per thousand population by 2026 and to 1.9 by 2030. Uttar Pradesh’s current rate fertility rate is 2.7 per thousand inhabitants. It is proposed to help improve the general welfare of the people of the state, which would lead to sustainable economic development. However, it is noted that the bill, although introduced for a noble purpose, has great potential to lead to a political and demographic disaster. Policy makers were reckless when drafting the bill because they did not consider the negative consequences it could potentially have on society as a whole, after its enactment.

Uttar Pradesh is not the first state to adopt such a regressive policy in India. Other states like Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Odisha had also tried this population control technique in which it was noted that such a two child policy increased sex-selective and unsafe abortions, giving children up for adoption and men divorcing and abandoning their wives to avoid disqualification. The policy appears to be gender blind, disproportionately impacting women as well as the poor and marginalized sector of society.

Problems with the bill

It can be said that the bill divides the population into two groups: first, encouraging individuals and their spouses to “voluntarily” sterilize themselves after their two children with government jobs, promotions, education, and raises; and second, prohibiting people with more than two children from applying for government jobs, promotions, grants. It is therefore difficult to ignore whether sterilization is more “voluntary” or compulsory in nature to take advantage of the opportunities offered. The objectives of the bill are not achieved by encourage sterilization and are in fact in violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.

One of the disincentives mentioned in the bill is “prohibition on applying for government jobs” and “prohibition on receiving any type of government subsidy” for fathering more than two children. In Uttar Pradesh, where almost 32.8% of its population falls below the poverty line and in the current COVID pandemic situation where several people have lost their jobs or are underpaid, the state government has proposed to bar these people from using government facilities. The government appears to be disenfranchising the people of the state by relying on government grants and government job opportunities. These incentives and disincentives seem to divide individuals with reservations based on “voluntary” sterilization in government jobs and promotion opportunities, making it contrary to the Article 16 of the Indian Constitution. Therefore, classifying individuals based on sterilization may render this bill unconstitutional.

In a state like Uttar Pradesh, where patriarchy and misogyny are rampant and the treatment of women is not commonplace, the bill can have dire consequences for women and their personal health. In such a society, it will not be wrong to assume that the majority of the burden will fall on women to undergo life-threatening sterilization operations. The data disseminated by NFHS-4 claiming that female sterilization is the most popular modern contraceptive (36%) among married women aged 15-49 depicts the unfortunate burden placed on women. These data also show that male participation in the sterilization process has decreased from 4% to 0.3% since NFHS-1 (1992-1993).

Going through the sterilization procedure isn’t the only problem; it would also have other major consequences. The substandard health infrastructure in India and poor hygiene in public hospitals will have a severe effect on the health of the individual whose probability of being female is exponentially high. The proposed bill is likely to deteriorate women’s health and reproductive rights, thus becoming unconstitutional as it violates the right to equality. To qualify for the benefits and incentives of the bill, one must undergo a sterilization operation. Executing this would mean that a sterilization certificate would be required to guarantee access to these government benefits. This would result in the birth of two children in quick succession, which would only have a detrimental effect on the health of the mother.

The harsh reality of society leads us to believe that such a two-child norm would either leave us with sexist politics, or with exponential growth in female feticide, unsafe abortions, child abandonment, or even the husband abandoning his wife with the little girl. In one case 2017, an Indian netball player was asked to divorce her husband because she had given birth to a daughter; this case is not unique. This shows the sad reality of our country. If the woman is pressured to undergo sterilization after the birth of a child, in case the child is a woman or in case the child loses her life, there is every chance that the woman will be divorcee. In a society like ours, it would be acceptable for a man to lead a normal life and remarry. However, it would be the women who would face an extremely uncertain future because of sterilization. This is not an exaggerated assumption. There are countless cases of women facing domestic violence, divorce and death because they only gave birth to daughters.

The bill appears to have discouraged the adoption culture in the state. Section 14 of the bill applies to persons who have no children or a child born out of wedlock, subsequently having more than two children following an adoption. The result of implementing the bill can discourage adoption while increasing child abandonment. The bill also prohibits people under personal laws from practicing polygamous and polyandrous marriages. They will violate the policy if they have more than two children from different spousal relationships and will be exempt from these incentives under Articles 19 to 21 Bill. Therefore, making the policy discriminatory. It also provides for an exception to be able to have a third child in the event of a disability of the first or second child according to Section 15 of the proposed bill, which gives the impression of non-inclusion of children born with disabilities and makes this policy prejudicial on this basis under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. This selective relaxation of the policy would lead to an increase in atrocities against children, which is socially discouraged.

Opinion of the authors

NFHS data indicates that there has been a considerable drop in family size in India. Young couples in states like Uttar Pradesh with a large population already seem to have small family sizes. Despite this decline in fertility, the population continues to grow. This is called “population dynamics”, which basically means that even though all young couples have two children, the population of the country will continue to grow due to the large population of young people there. . The population is increasing not because of the increase in the fertility rate, but because there is an increase in the number of young married couples in the state.

In conclusion, it can be said that the current policy will not have the desired impact on the population, but could lead to a host of unintended consequences. This bill should have been aimed primarily at lowering the birth rate rather than lowering the fertility rate. Improving access to family planning is another way to help reduce the state’s fertility rate. Measures such as improving education and teaching the masses about family planning and the use of other contraceptive measures will have better results. Improve literacy rate of the state has shown remarkable decrease in fertility and birth rate in states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. It is a common/old belief that sometimes using coercive means to control something or achieve a desired goal can be completely ineffective in achieving that goal. This may be the case in Uttar Pradesh, here it would also violate basic human rights of citizens. In fact, it would also lead to an increase in corrupt practices in our country as well as an increase in bureaucracy and paperwork. The carrot and stick approach to population control doesn’t really seem like an appropriate solution to the problem.

Sanjica Kumar and Vedica Nigam are students at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow, India.

Suggested quote: Sanjica Kumar and Vedica Nigam, Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilization and Welfare) Bill, 2021: A Critical Analysis, September 1, 2021, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2021/09/kumar-nigam-analysis – uttar-pradesh-2021/ population bill.


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