Why UP’s proposed population control bill is bad as policy and politics -Abhijit Das

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published Published on Jul 20, 2021   modified Modified on Jul 21, 2021

-The Indian Express

It is not only unnecessary and harmful but can potentially lead to political and demographic disaster

The Uttar Pradesh Law Commission released the draft of the Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilisation and Welfare) Bill, 2021 on July 19, days before the state’s chief minister unveiled a new population policy. The overall objective of the proposed law is the welfare of the people of the state by promoting the two-child norm. Assam has embarked on a similar policy recently; Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said that the policy is meant to help the development of the minority community in Assam.

The UP draft Bill, as with all population-control laws, starts with a noble objective before it starts listing the incentives and disincentives. The carrot-and-stick approach to population control has been in vogue for a long time in India.

Since Paul and Anne Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb in 1968, the idea of a population explosion has been something many policy-makers have been afraid of. The Green Revolution was successful in making India self-sufficient in foodgrains and avoiding the famines that were predicted in The Population Bomb. Many experts have said that the authors’ fear of overpopulation was primarily a fear of poverty and its associated signs, like crowds and squalor.

The notion of an exploding population is deeply ingrained in our society and the idea of restricting couples from having more children keeps cropping up as a policy solution. If all couples have two or fewer children, it seems logical that the population will stop growing. China adopted a one-child norm in 1979, which was later relaxed in stages. These restrictions were finally lifted earlier this year and China now officially encourages couples to have more children.

In India, successive rounds of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) indicate that family size has declined considerably across states. In UP, too, most young couples already have two children. Despite this decline in fertility, the population keeps growing. Demographers call this the “population momentum”. It is important to understand that even if all the couples in UP were to have two children from tomorrow, the population will continue to grow. This is because of the large number of young people in the state. Unlike in the past, the population is growing not because couples have more children, but because we have many more young couples today.

The argument that controlling the population will increase the natural resource base is also faulty. It is more important to review consumption patterns. The rich consume far more natural resources and contribute much more to greenhouse gas emissions than the poor, whose numbers such laws often aim to control.

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The Indian Express, 20 July, 2021, https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/uttar-pradesh-proposed-population-control-bill-policy-and-politics-7412610/

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