India’s most populous state plans to implement a population control policy that will be dangerous for its most vulnerable citizens, writes Kanav Narayan Sahgal.
On July 19, the Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission published a draft of its Population (Control, Stabilization and Welfare) Bill, 2021.
It was only days before the chief minister of state unveiled a new population policy. With a population of around 231 million people, Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in India and its population has resurrected rapidly over the past decade, by about 199 million people in 2011.
It is important to note that it has also consistently lagged behind the rest of India in almost all of the major measures well-being and social progress, including food security, gender equality and literacy.
A recent study find that while some Indian states like Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat have experienced economic growth of seven percent on average since the 1990s, others – including Uttar Pradesh – have lagged behind.
One of the main reasons for this has been the inefficient investment and development of human capital over the years, and some policymakers have blamed the large population for low skill levels. The state’s population density is more than double India’s national average, but a large portion of its population has remained unskilled and illiterate.
The government’s solution, instead of investing in skills, has been to try to stabilize the growing population. To do this, its new demographic policy is to create laws and incentives to force families to join a “two-child standard”. However, this will most certainly fail.
Take into account the trait population Invoice. It takes a carrot and stick approach to population growth. He promises government incentives to couples who adhere to the two-child standard by voluntary sterilization after the birth of one or two children and prescribes disincentives to couples who transgress this norm.
Some incentives include housing subsidies, soft loans for building or buying a house, tax cuts, increased pensions and free health care facilities.
As for disincentives, those with three or more children would not only be ineligible for these benefits, but they would also not have the right to access other government-funded social assistance schemes, to run in local elections, to apply for government jobs and to have limited access to food rations.
The bill also has other problems. With regard to the rights of persons with disabilities, the bill is not only vague, but downright discriminatory. The bill states that a couple giving birth to a third child would not be in violation of the law if the two previous children suffered from a disability.
This effectively means that the law does not consider children with disabilities to be worthy of the same rights and privileges as their able-bodied counterparts. Some have argued that because the bill allows for a “recovery” after the birth of one or two disabled children, it further spreads ableist narratives in India.
Other researchers have expressed concern that in others jurisdictions these policies have had a negative impact on women, especially increases in sex-selective abortions and in women abandoning their children for adoption to avoid disincentives.
The bill notes this and recognizes the responsibilities of the government in establishing maternity centers in all primary health centers in the state, distributing contraceptives and raising awareness of family planning methods in collaboration with nongovernmental organizations. and community health workers.
However, the practical results and tone of the policy fundamentally discriminate against children with disabilities and all couples who should be in control of their own families, and no “collaboration” changes that. Population studies scholars pointed out that the two-child standard policies in six Indian states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa were having disastrous results.
These policies were riddled with ambiguities and loopholes, and government officials consistently failed to inform their constituents of the existence of such policies, making families with more than two children even more vulnerable.
There is no reason to believe it would play out any differently in Uttar Pradesh. Even though such population control policies are designed with the intention of being impartial, they end up harming most vulnerable groups in society, be they List Tribes, List Castes, Individuals. low income, people with disabilities and women.
Given widespread and reasonable criticism of the bill among public policy and health experts, the government must scrap it. Rather, it should focus on building the capacity of its citizens and enhancing their skills.
TThe government should also ensure that all future family planning programs comply with Persons with Disabilities Rights Act, 2016 which explicitly prohibits all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities in India.
The current bill does none of these, making it morally questionable at best, and possibly even unconstitutional. In its current form, it will only hurt couples in Uttar Pradesh without solving the state’s deeper problems, and should not become law.