What works for India’s Family Planning Programme
Most recently ‘Mission Pariwar Vikas’ was launched in 2016, for improved access to contraceptives and family planning services in high fertility districts spreading over seven high focus states.Updated: Feb 21, 2020, 18:25 IST
India’s government-sponsored family planning programme was launched in 1952 with an aim to slow down population growth. The programme may have its drawback in terms of faulty strategy that has led to women largely making use of contraceptive measures, or limited basket of choice of contraceptives for young couples among other things, but it still has managed to help India reach closer to the replacement Total Fertility Rate (TFR) target of 2.1.
The total fertility rate, or TFR, of a country is an average number of children a woman produces in her life-time in a particular country.
India’s family planning success story can be gauged from the fact that from a TFR of about 6 in 1952, when the family planning programme was launched, it has dropped considerably to 2.2 shown in the National Family Health Survey-4 that have results from the year 2015-16.
In fact, apart from the high focus states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan that still have a TFR higher than the national average, the remaining states have managed to even bring it down under 2. The target is to bring the national average down to 2.1 by 2025.
“India was the first country in the world to launch a national-level family planning programme,” says a senior health ministry official, requesting anonymity as the official is not authorised to speak to media.
“The national programme is working very well; there are certain shortcomings that the government is working on, but overall the results are encouraging. If you look at the National Family Health Survey-4 data, it shows TFR has reached 2.2, and for population stabilisation 2.1 TFR is what is considered ideal So, we can say we are almost there. In fact, in the next NFHS data, there’s a possibility we might have reached the target,” the official added.
Most recently ‘Mission Pariwar Vikas’ was launched in 2016, for improved access to contraceptives and family planning services in high fertility districts spreading over seven high focus states.
Special focus has been given to 146 high fertility Districts of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand, with an aim to ensure availability of contraceptive methods at all the levels of health systems.
According to the official, introducing new spacing methods that are reversible, wage compensation system for people who undergo sterlisation and promoting small family norm has also worked well over the years.
“Certainly more needs to be done in terms of awareness generation as still fewer men opt for sterilization as compared to men,” he said.
Members of the advocacy groups in the field of family planning, while criticising any move that aims at implementing family planning measures by using coercion by the state, feel the programme has worked at many levels.
“Things that have worked include increasing age at marriage; increasing education level for girls and encouraging them to take up jobs; providing a method mix in their basket of choice for contraceptives, and targeting young population to make an informed choice, especially by making use of multi-purpose of healthcare workers such as ASHAS to generate awareness,” says Poonam Muttreja, executive director, Population Foundation of India.
Over the decades, the programme has undergone transformation in terms of policy and actual programme implementation and currently being repositioned to not only achieve population stabilization goals but also promote reproductive health and reduce maternal, infant and child mortality and morbidity.