UP Population Policy : Analysis – UPSC GS1

ontext:
  • A new population policy released by the U.P government aims to bring fertility levels down.
  • It aims to create a population balance among various communities.
  • It states that any citizen who “violates” a two-child policy would be barred from:
    • contesting local bodies polls,
    • applying for, or getting promotion in, government jobs, and
    • even receiving government subsidies.
Problems associated with New population policy and Draft Law:
  • The aim of establishing a population balance among communities might breed polarisation and communal disharmony in the state.
  • This policy is based on punitive theory, which disproportionately targets the poor vis-à-vis the rich population.
  • India is not being threatened by a “population explosion”. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) and Census data show that in most states, and many urban areas, the total fertility rate (TFR) has already reached replacement levels (2.1).
  • On a national level, TFR has declined from 3.4 in 1994 to 2.2 in 2015. Decadal growth rates have declined across all religious communities, with the fertility rate falling faster among Muslims than in Hindus.
  • China’s recent policy reversal of its restrictive child-bearing norms points to the limits of measures of state engineering of population.
  • It is an anti-democratic practice that impairs a citizen’s right to choice and his/her sexual and reproductive rights.
  • Against Central government argument:
    • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare argued in Supreme Court last year that “international experience shows that any coercion to have a certain number of children is counter-productive and leads to demographic distortions”.
  • Against Court Judgements: Supreme Court in various cases upheld the right to reproductive freedom.
    • In Suchita Srivastava vs Chandigarh Administration (2009) case, the Court found that a woman’s freedom to make reproductive decisions is an integral facet of the right to personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21.
    • In K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017) case, the court held that the Constitution sees a person’s autonomy over her body as an extension of the right to privacy. This also includes reproductive rights. Further, the UP’s draft bill is in violation of the doctrine of proportionality mentioned in the Privacy judgment.
  • Unlike in the past, the population is growing not because couples have more children, but because we have many more young couples today.
  • The argument that controlling the population will increase the natural resource base is also faulty. The rich consume far more natural resources and contribute much more to greenhouse gas emissions than the poor.
  • The law discriminates against the youth. As the draft bill did not cover, all couples with three or more children, who have completed their reproductive lives, will not fall under the ambit of the law. So, all older persons are automatically exempt, younger couples will be at risk of population control.
Way Ahead:
  • The success of India’s southern states in containing population growth indicates that economic growth, as well as attention to education, health, and empowerment of women, work far better to disincentivize larger families than punitive measures.
  • Hence, any government interested in supporting fertility decline must work on the education and empowerment of women and respect their choices.