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) 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.
 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