Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, 60, has a radical solution to population stabilisation: improve late-night programming so that people watch TV instead of having sex.
“If there are good late-night shows, people will watch TV till late at night. They won’t get a chance to have children,” he said. “With no good programmes and no electricity in many villages, what are people to do?” he said.
Other population control ideas include marrying after the age of 30 and using “aggressive compulsion and not forced sterilisation” to convince people to have fewer children.
How many are okay? “Not one, definitely more. No one in India will agree to one,” he laughed. “One must have realistic expectations.”
India supports 17.2 per cent of the world’s population on 2.4 per cent of the world’s land.
“Land shrinks with every new development project even as the population increases. It leads to problems like Naxalism in rural India and petty crime in urban India,” said Azad.
“I’m not in favour of forced sterilisation. We never were. During Emergency, no one said it should be done but propaganda by other parties misled people. They used it like a stick to beat the Congress. As a result, everyone stopped talking about family control and things got out of hand,” he said.
The solution, said Azad, is to get everyone talking about population stabilisation — political parties, government, industry, NGOs, media and schools. “It is not a poor man’s problem; it is everyone’s problem. If the population continues to spiral, there’ll be no land, no employment, no jobs. Poverty leads to migration and more goondas (criminals) and crime on the street. We all need to worry,” he said.
His statements have led critics to accuse him of dumping down serious issues such as population, child marriage, crime, etc.
“I’m like this only,” he says. “I always say what I think.”