One Child Norm in India: Is it Possible?

Posted on June 4, 2010 in Society

Ankur Kumar:

Rising population has been much of a concern for our nation in past few decades. To counter the drastic increase we have till now resorted to steps like providing free Family Health Planning facilities for married couples (you know the common ones I am talking about) and launching less-given-heed-to campaigns of Hum Do Hamare Do which lately has become Hum do Hamara Ek, thinking that the country which is having the largest illiterate population in the world would give heed to such campaigns. The situation demands stricter government interference to combat the exploding population.

A One Child Norm, similar to what Chinese have done, is one of the possible solutions at hand. Implementing such a policy in a country like ours is not so easy. With likely protests from political parties, ethnic groups, religious bodies and other idle social organizations getting yet another issue to raise their voices against, implementing this would not be an easy task.

Let’s go deep into the problem of rising population and the ‘One Child Norm’ solution.

Why is One Child Norm (OCN) important?

    • Bursting population of our nation. Increasing poverty, unemployment, social, economic, and environmental problems day by day.
    • With a definite check on population growth, such a norm will help us in providing quality health care facilities and increasing our literacy rate as population has a cascading effect on these issues.
    • Limited availability of resources. 40% of the people live below poverty line and cannot easily afford meal two times a day.
    • Such a norm may promote adoption of orphans thereby reducing number of orphans in India which currently tops the list.
    • Indian Medical Association (IMA) has been reiterating its suggestion to implement OCN based on their survey.

Associated Hurdles and Drawbacks of Norm

    • ONC or TCN? Should it be a One Child Norm or Two Child Norm? If we go for two child norm, should there be a birth spacing as it is there in Chinese one child norm policy? (In China, a second child is allowed with 3-4 years spacing between the birth of two children but only if the first child is a female)
    • Rural and Urban Factor: If implemented, should it be both in rural and urban areas or either of them? India has around 70% of rural population and rest urban or semi-urban. China too has majority of rural population but it has implemented policy only for families living in urban areas.
    • Increased Abortions: This norm may lead to increase in female foeticide (few states already have sex ratio below 900 females/1000 males).
    • Political hurdles: Unanimous decision on this issue is tough to be made amongst the parties and the bill implementing this norm may not be passed easily.
    • Effect on population and economic growth: Considering the fact that India is a labour intensive nation, known for cheap labour, such a restriction in the long run may result in a shortage of labour and can affect economic growth of nation.
    • Improved Family Health Planning: To practically bring such a norm into existence, more awareness for contraceptives would need to be created when India is already struggling to do it.
    • Controversial nature of policy: The government may have to come up with separate norms for minorities who are more likely to protest such a norm.
    • Fine and depriving individuals of other Govt. benefits: The fine to be imposed on breaking such a norm is again a big issue. Where per capita income of Indians is approximately Rs 48000, the fine for bringing a new life into existence is tough to decide. It can be similar to our tax slab depending on the financial condition of an individual.
    • Sudden Decline in Population: India already has a declining population growth rate since 1980s (1.34% in 2008[1]) and also a lower life expectancy (around 69 years [avg. of male and female]). Given this fact, our Health Ministry through Population Foundation of India will need to justify that OCN will be a success and it will not lead to sudden decrease in population in coming years.
    • The danger of extinction of family name in case of premature deaths of the only child in families following OCN.
  • Other Complications: Policy for NRIs would be an issue.

Solution to the problem

    • A National Survey amongst all adults is required to be done in a transparent manner since it concerns all citizens and would help in a consensus on this issue.
    • Initially a one child norm to bring a sooner decrease and when population is stabilised we can switch to two child norm.
    • Policy to be revised (if required) in each Five Year Plan and should not be a permanent one. If we face any adverse problems it can be withdrawn, but giving it a start is very important and a need of the hour.
    • Implement it only in urban areas for first few five year plans and judge its demographic effect.
    • Relaxation in the norm (as in China): If there are no siblings of a married couple then the couple can have two children.

To conclude, we can say that One Child Norm seems to be a necessity but its implementation in India requires careful juxtaposition of facts and figures in hand.




[3] Nanda, A. R., Haub, C. 2007. The Future Population of India: A Long Range Demographic View. Population Reference Bureau. 1-20.


The writer is a Goa based correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz and also a student at BITS, Pilani — Goa Campus

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First of all I would like to say a very nice and sensible post as all faces of the problems are discussed……..though I am completely against a few points , like implementation of it in one five year plan and removal of it in another 5 year plan, this think this is a bad idea as the consequences will be the couple planing to have a second child will be restricted to have it in that term and those who were planning to have it later will be also forced to have it during that term …….hence it will increase the population of that 5 year term more than normal …..

Also I think a 2 child policy is sufficient to check the growth ………otherwise we will face problems like china where there are less young ppl as compared to old ppl.

Also the thing is as the avg life expectancy is 69 years assuming a couple die at same age of 69 and they have two offsprings…….. so every time a couple dies and a couple of kids are produced by another couple it will balance the system……

The actual problem is not that two child policy is not good enough …… the problem lies in the fact that we r failing to implement it …… And it should not only be implement in urban area but in villages also and that too strictly…..


OCN is the need of India at present but as pointed by the writer its revision a/c to Five year Plan is also important. I would suggest that it is required (NOT [if required]) since China did not follow the revision policy so once they had less young population as compared to old ones. This condition should not happen with India as it will seriously affect its growth.

Ankur Kumar

Thanks Ravi and Prashant for your valuable comments.


The idea of regulation through 5 Year Plans is meant to have some control and supervision over OCN. This policy cannot be such that once implemented, it has to stay forever. It needs to be revised with time and it can be best done through FYPs. It is similar to other decisions of public welfare being made through Five Year Plans. In case of population, it is also not easy to revise the OCN at the end of five years itself as Census is done at the end of a decade. So this revision could be after interval of 2 FYPs.

As far as the cited problems are concerned, they are genuine ones and one solution could be to reduce the birth spacing between two children to as low as possible (say around 2 years instead of 3-4 years in case of China). In such cases, the couple getting married in second last year or the terminal year of a FYP will only face problem as the changed norm in the next FYP will be binding on them. All this is not easy to think about and involves lot of demographic calculations by concerned bodies. The aim of this article is to bring to the attention of the public regarding the need for such a norm.

Even, I personally feel a Two Child Norm (with minimum birth spacing defined and binding on citizens) can work out well for India.

“Also the thing is as the avg life expectancy is 69 years assuming a couple die at same age of 69 and they have two offsprings…….. so every time a couple dies and a couple of kids are produced by another couple it will balance the system……”

This is not as simple as it seems. In rural areas people get married at lower age than in urban areas. In fact in states like Rajasthan, marriages below the age of 18 years are common. So, by the age of around 45 years a couple may have grandchildren and then by age of 69 a couple may have great grandchildren. This distorts your calculation. :-) so an increase of 4 with death of 2, and that would increase the population. Also don’t forget around 70% of India’s population is rural.

“The actual problem is not that two child policy is not good enough …… the problem lies in the fact that we r failing to implement it …… And it should not only be implement in urban area but in villages also and that too strictly…..”

True, but a check on rural areas will significantly affect India’s labor strength and may affect our economy. Many of the other countries largely depend on labor intensive agricultural products of India and that builds a major source of foreign revenue for us. Such a norm in rural areas as well can have a direct affect on our economy.


Coming to your first point in the above post……… If I am 22 now I would have planned to study for 2 years more 5 year job then marriage…..but with the birth control plan changing in 10 years or 15 I will plan my marriage accordingly depending on whether I want two child or one and may marry at 25 itself instead of 29 ………so as i said earlier this will actually lead to periodic abundance and less ppl in india depending on 5 year plan…..but we actually need balanced plan ……

2nd point abt the life expectancy and generation thing……. while explaining me till the 4 generation u actually forgot to count that the couples parents and ancestors also die during that time…….
So actually lets take the case ahead… suppose its the start of the world……..
and till wat u have explained its ok after that the couple dies and 2 new babies are born so the net is 2-2=0 ……net effect = 0……..m saying it roughly , I know demographics is not that easy , still a rough estimate………

3rd point Abt the chk in villages and labour strength……
Mostly ppl in cities and urban areas have either one or two child ……due to economy it becomes difficult also to raise more than two children…….So the two child policy actually need to be implemented in villages and downtrodden areas only…….
In villages even educated ppl are preferring 2 child as they have to educated them and raise them well…….but in labour class its the other way ……they think more children , more hands to work …..more money…..hence their sustainance will become easy…and the population raised in this way is the actual suffer of wat is called illiteracy and end up at Below Poverty Line many a times…….
So, my point is actually it needs to be implemented in the rural areas as 70% is a great chunk of ppl and a revolution cannot be brought without them……

Ankur Kumar

@ Ravi

Thanks again for your comments. I agree totally with you that OCN or TCN in rural areas is important for an effective check in population of our country. In that case over the period of time, India will continue to be a labour intensive nation until a stability in population is reached, after which the supply in labour may not be at par with the demand in labour and only increased industrialization by that time can counter the situation an would compensate the deficit in labour supply.

You are again mistaken about the generation ladder. A couple at the age of 69 years, is not assumed to have their parents alive as the avg. life span is 69 years, so they had already died much before…and their death is counted in the separate cycle of 4-2 = 2.

As far as planning about kids is concerned, people don’t think much about kids before getting married, rather they think about bride first 😛 They can adjust with the new norms after marriage. In fact if they are unable to raise second kid because of OCN, they can adopt the second child.


Family ahving one child does unjust the single child in the family in the following manner.
a. s/he becomes along for all teh lives and if any sort of support is required no body will help him at teh time of need.
He will develop insecured .
will have less social communication.
if becomes diseased, a great shock and loss for the parents.
if become issue less as to his fate, teh family will cutoff its chane.
Therfore a family shoudl have minimum two either sons or daughters.

Rural areas never thing about reducing the number of siblings. They go early to bed and prone to have sex long nights. as a result fo which, pregnancy is more. In rural areas, they never thing to avoid pregnancy, but if it so happens, they are prepared to accept teh same.

Ankur Kumar

@ Prabhakar

Thanks for your comments on this article. Well, I agree with you on some of the points you have made in your comment and considering that a two child norm should be made legal. Our central family health planning bodies have been coming up with slogan of “Hum Do Hamare Do”, but lately they have changed it to “Hum Do Hamara Ek”. Reason being, the required decrease in population in our country owing to less resources, poverty, illiteracy etc. It is also not true that having a one child is always a problem for the lonely kid. It is more of a responsibility of parents to keep the child engaged and give him/her all essential environment for rational growth. A Two-child-Norm can also solve many of India’s problems provided people follow it strictly and that would require stricter monitoring in rural areas and improved health planning programs.

Gaurav Singh

1. I have a Chinese friend who tells me the following:
School education (primary) is “very” expensive in China so the parents themselves do not prefer having two children.

2. Strictness should be put on 2 children only as of now. India is doing great with it’s population explosion as the majority of current population is youngsters (IT/BPO crowd).

3. I somehow do not see the population a problem (even though high) as long as 2. is implemented by law.

Ankur Kumar

@ Gaurav

Thanks for your comments. It was good to hear about China. But I think when this norm was imposed way back in 1979, the motive was to tackle “social, economic, and environmental problems”(source Wiki) arising solely because of population. Now that Chinese economy has been doing so well over the years and this norm is still in place, people are anyways not in a position to bear more than 2 children, especially in urban areas (rural areas do not have this norm) making this norm a much more followed one. So its a win win situation for China! I just think can’t the same happen to least to start with a Two Child Norm in place!

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  • rakesh

    There should always be 2 child norm because it is necessary to keep a high percentage of youth in the population. One-child norm may be useful only for a short time, say 10 or 15 years .


    Thanks for your comments Rakesh. You are correct in your opinion.

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  • thexpert

    I Think government policy should reward One Child Norm, Force Maximum Two Child Norm and Punish for third child onwards. This means if a couple opts for single child only & after that husband-wife both does birth prevention surgery, Couple should be rewarded with instant Cash Reward and Guaranteed Govt Sponsored Education to only female child. Also punishment like fine/jail and No Sponsorship for education, etc can be enforced for third child onwards.

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