TWO CHILD POLICY
India is soon projected to become the world’s most populous nation, with nearly 1.5 billion people and is set to surpass China as the world’s most populous country by 2027, according to recent United Nations projections. Population growth could be the root cause of corruption, pollution, unemployment, lack of sanitation and increase in crimes against women in India. Considering this, the Indian policy makers have been trying to get down to family planning.
In the 1970s due to the rapidly rising population, The Family Planning Association of Hong Kong launched the "Two is Enough" campaign. This organization provides family planning advice, sex education, and birth control services to the general public of Hong Kong. Even though this campaign reduced the general birth rate but it did not reflect the current government policy in supporting families.
Almost after a decade, seeing population growth as a threat to the country’s economic ambitions (targets/goals), China came up with the "one-child policy" in 1979. Its rationale was to allow the Chinese citizens to have one child only. Certain benefits were granted by the government to those who obeyed this rule and those who disobeyed were penalised. Although this new policy led to a decrease in fertility rate, it also came with some drawbacks as well. One of them being “the 4-2-1 Problem”, the new generation had to provide support to his or her two parents and four grandparents. This problem led to an increase in chances of the older generations to depend upon retirement funds, personal savings, pensions, state welfare, etc. Soon, the negative consequences started to outweigh the positive even after providing certain relaxation to the policy. After 36 years, China’s iconic “one child policy” was replaced by a universal “two child policy” in October 2015. Several countries like Singapore, Iran, UK, Vietnam and India, are adopting this policy to curb population growth problems.
India was the first country in the world to come up with a National Programme for Family Planning in 1952 and ever since its first Five-Year-Plan, the Indian policy makers have been trying to deal with family planning which also undergirds population growth. Back in 1951, the focus was on convincing the citizens to limit their family size. However, Mahatma Gandhi supported the idea of abstinence to control population expansion and was not in favour of using contraception as a method of birth control.
I consider it inhuman to impose sterilization law on the people. But in cases of individuals with chronic diseases, it is desirable to have them sterilized if they are agreeable to it. Sterilization is a sort of contraceptive and though I am against the use of contraceptive in case of women, I do not mind voluntary sterilization in case of man. – M.K. Gandhi.
Recently the government of Assam announced the two-child policy which seeks to bar the ones having more than two children from being elected or nominated to panchayat or other local bodies’ elections and government jobs. However, Assam is not the first state in India to implement such a policy. In most of the cases, this policy aims to disqualify individuals with more than two kids from contesting local body elections.
Two child policy in different states
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana disqualified any person with more than two children from contesting the election. Similarly, Maharashtra barred people having more than two children from contesting gram panchayat and municipal elections. Maharashtra also disqualified such individuals from holding a post in the state government. Rajasthan had that of the same effect as that of Assam, under the Rajashtan Panchayati Act 1994. Gujarat amended the Local Authorities Act and disqualified its citizens from elections to panchayats, municipalities, and municipal corporations. States like Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Odisha, Karnataka, Bihar and Uttarakhand, too, implemented two-child policy though their limitations varied.
Does implementing such a policy deprive an individual’s constitutional rights?
Two child policy, if implemented, would abstain from some constitutional rights of the citizens of the country. Rights such as, Right to life (Article 21) and the United Nation’s Convention on Rights of Child. The measures of this policy would also be contrary to the 73rd amendment which aims to provide political representation to people from marginalized communities and also this policy restricts people from their right to contest election in Panchayat.
Is the two-child policy punitive or necessary?
India needs to adopt an approach that protects the rights of the citizens in order to achieve a suitable and sustainable family planning policy. The National Family Health Survey (2015-2016) depicts a direct link between family size and education, employment status, infant mortality rate and household wealth. Hence, the socio-economic factors should be prioritized in order to promote reproductive rights without depriving a couple’s right to choose the number and spacing of their children. Moreover, coupled with an increasing life expectancy rate and over 50 percent of reproductive age, India is expected to have natural population growth. In fact, India is expected to follow a steep decline after its population reaches to its peak in 2048, according to the Lancent study.
A punitory two-child policy might end up causing more problems than it intends to solve. Therefore, by following the idea of abstinence of Mahatma Gandhi and taking China’s mistake as an example, India must refrain itself from focusing on the population growth of the country and rather should adopt an approach that focuses on improving the socio- economic factors and maintaining replacement levels of fertility.