Two-child Policy

Assam and Uttar Pradesh are taking steps to bring in two-child policies in the states, which will limit government benefits to people with only two children.

Factors that affect population growth

  • Infant mortality: Empirical correlations suggest that a High IMR level leads to a greater desire for children. Ex: IMR is the lowest at 15 in Kerala and the highest at 73 in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Early marriage increases the likelihood of more children.
  • Level of education: Fertility usually declines with an increase in the education levels of women.
  • Use of contraceptives: According to NFHS III (2005-06), only 56% of currently married women use some method of family planning in India.
  • Son-meta preference: Phenomena where parents continue to produce children until the desired number of sons are born is another reason for high birth rates.

Arguments favouring the two-child policy

  • Various states have framed laws that set the two-child limit as a criterion for certain government jobs and elected posts.
  • In Rajasthan, those having more than two children are not eligible for appointments in government jobs.
  • As per Madhya Pradesh civil services rules, if the third child was born on or after January 26, 2001, a person becomes ineligible for government services. The norm also applies to higher judicial services.
  • Entry 20-A in the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule permits both Union and state legislatures to enact laws on population control and family planning. 
  • India’s population in 2021 is estimated to be 1.39 billion (139 Crores) while China is inhabited by nearly 143 crores. This means soon, India will overtake China.

Arguments against the two-child policy

  • Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (UN 1994) to which India is a signatory, strongly avers that coercion, incentives and disincentives.
  • Goes against India’s rights-based approach to family planning: Union government has maintained that the family welfare program in India is voluntary in nature and it is the prerogative of the clients to choose a family planning method best suited to them as per their reproductive right.
  • Economic Survey notes that India will witness a “sharp slowdown in population growth in the next two decades”. By the 2030s, some States will start transitioning to an ageing society.
  • Well-studied process of “demographic transition” suggests that nations slowly move toward a stable population as fertility rates fall with an improvement in social and economic development indices over time.
  • India’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is declining. It is now 2.2 per woman, nearing the Replacement Rate (RR) of 2.1. Currently, as many as 23 States and Union Territories, including all the States in the south region, already have fertility below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.
  • Might result in gender imbalance: Coercive policies in a society with a high preference for male children will impact the child-sex ratio.
  • This might lead to problems of imbalance: China’s one-child norm enforced in the 1980s was abandoned after it resulted in skyrocketing of aged dependents, insufficient people of working age, and a huge excess of aged people needing costly medical care.
  • No evidence to prove that coercive methods disincentives control the population. In fact, States like Kerala that provided better healthcare services have achieved population stabilisation.
  • Disempower women: Denying jobs or government benefits to women who do not meet the population norms will end up disempowering them, who often do not have reproductive agency.

Government initiatives to control population growth

  • National Population Policy 2000 gave a focused approach to the problem of population stabilization. The National Commission on Population was formed in the year 2000, chaired by the Prime Minister, and has the mandate to review, monitor and give directions for the implementation of the National Population Policy.
  • Freeze on the state-wise allocation of seats in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha till 2026.
  • Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (National Population Stabilization Fund) was set up as an autonomous body under MoH&FW in 2005 with a mandate to undertake activities aimed at achieving population stabilization
  • Health care programs like Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), NRHM, ICDS etc.
  • Addition of new contraceptive choices like Injectable Contraceptive DMPA (Antara) Centchroman pill (Chhaya) and Progesterone only pill (POP) in the National family planning program.
  • Mission Parivar Vikas for substantially increasing the access to contraceptives and family planning services in the 145 high fertility districts of seven High Focus States (HFS) with a TFR of 3 and above i.e., Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Assam.

Way forward

India thus needs to balance the two imperatives of controlling population growth while at the same time ensuring reproductive autonomy. India needs two different policies.

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