Focus on people, not the population | HT Editorial
The Centre has left no room for ambiguity in its submission to the Supreme Court that it is against enforcing the two-child norm. This was in response to a public interest litigation by a lawyer seeking to introduce a population control law on the grounds that basic amenities such as health, education and rights to clean air and drinking water could not be secured without limiting family size. The Centre’s response sends a clear signal to many politicians who have advocated restricting family size that it will have no truck with such sentiments.
India’s family planning programme has been voluntary and non-coercive, a tribute to the State’s commitment to personal liberty and democracy. And this has largely been successful. India’s population trajectory has been encouraging— according to the National Family Health Survey (2015-2016), the total fertility rate for urban India was 1.8, for rural India 2.4, for women with no schooling 3.4 and 1.7 for women with 12 years or more education. The required fertility rate is 1.8 for India and it stands at 2.2 at present, just above the replacement fertility level of 2.1 which is the mark of population stabilisation.
These figures indicate that education and health care are the most crucial inputs to reducing the population. It is a myth that the poor want more children. They have more children as they often have no access to reversible contraception methods, the cafeteria approach which the National Population Policy 2000 advocates. The Centre’s stand that family size is a personal right is welcome and sends out the message that if you take care of people, the population will take care of itself.