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Population discourse - and concerns

Some of the recent steps reported about population are curious and ridden with contradictions. One of them is the world's most populous country China's retraction from its 'two child policy'. Chinese Communist Party adopted a resolution granting permission to women to give birth to upto three children. Another development is that in the second most populous country of the world, India, the government of Uttar Pradesh state is going ahead with severe punitive legislative measures against those who have more than two children. The BJP-led governments in certain other states are also following the same path of legislation. It is amidst all this that yet another news report comes from Kerala. The Pala Diocese of Syro-Malabar church has issued a circular declaring sops and incentives for Christian families who give birth to more children. The Diocese offers special rewards to couples who give birth to five or more children. Certain schools under Idukki diocese also have declared incentives to families with more children. All put together, it needs to be analysed why during the same period of time, different approaches are being adopted on the issue of population growth or control.

India is a country that has adopted population control and family planning as a policy. The claim of the BJP is that it is to tighten the implementation of this policy that laws that deny benefits to those who give birth to more children are introduced. At the same time, the policy adopted by many developed capitalist countries is one of promoting population growth. They suffer from human resource crunch too, and find that this adversely affects their job market and productivity. For the same reason they encourage immigration and population growth, supplemented by government fillip to those who produce more children. In short, there is no clear global consensus on the matter of population size. Even China which had enforced population in a most aggressive manner, has now acknowledged its error and started declaring concessions. On the other hand, the Indian states ruled by the BJP bring in tight laws arguing that population control is essential. But if one asks whether this goal is shared by the RSS, the matter will get problematic. For, it was in Agra city of the same Uttar Pradesh that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had in August 2016 exhorted Hindu couples to produce more children. And the call given by Shankaracharya Sri Vasudevanand Saraswati of Badri ashram was that every Hindu couple should give birth to at least ten children. In June 2021, a minister from the BJP ally MNF in Mizoram, announced a cash award to couples producing more babies. In northeastern states there are not only voluntary organiations, but even official machinery that work towards population growth. At the same time, the largest state of that region, Assam has initiated stringent population control measures.

Various Christian groups in the country have long been giving calls for population expansion. And there is even a special movement named Pro-Life Ministry under the church. An affidavit that the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare filed in the Supreme Court in 2020 states that imposing family planning is not part of government policy. India is also signatory to the accord of International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) under the United Nations. ICPD contains a strong stance against family planning by force. That being so, the question arises how certain states in India can bring in laws containing strict measures imposing population control. At an international level the country stands with the ICPD accord; in the Supreme Court, the Union Ministry takes a position that there won't be any coercion for family planning. On the other hand, the BJP-led state governments come with stringent laws to curb population growth. On still another level, Hindutva champions openly advocate population increase. On the whole, the sangh parivar stances on the issue are extremely complicated. Amidst all this cobweb of positions, Christian churches are moving forward with their own plans and programmes to promote population growth. As a matter of fact, do the Union government and and the BJP have a clear population policy other than of wooing more votes by creating a notion in the land of increasing Muslim population? And is such an issue with grave implications for the country's future, to be viewed in so narrow a perspective? When different religious groups make their own population policies and declare schemes to implement them, what will be their ramifications for the country? Are we left with no one with a concern about this?

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TAGS:Population control and growth India's policy state laws penalising large families IPCD K Vanlalvena 
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