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What Is The Population Control Bill And Why Is It Problematic?

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Over the past month, the issue of India’s vast population has been trending in news conversations as Assam and UP are mulling implementing population control laws that incentivise having no more than two children. The UP government has proposed the Population (Control, Stabilisation and Welfare) Bill, 2021, and is taking suggestions till 19 July.

What Does The Bill Propose?

population india
Representative Image.

The Population Control Bill includes incentives for those that follow the two-child policy and punishes those that don’t, in essence.

Some of the incentives for those that follow the policy include:

  • Rebate in taxes on water, housing, home loans, etc.
  • Government employees will be eligible for promotions, concessions in housing schemes, etc.
  • Public servants to get two additional increments during service, paid maternity/paternity leave of 12 months, free healthcare and insurance for spouse, etc.
  • Those below the poverty line, with only one child, who undergo voluntary sterilisation will be given ₹80,000 or ₹1 lakh.

Those that don’t follow the policy will be ineligible to:

  • Contest elections in local authority or anybody of self-government.
  • Apply for government jobs under the state government.
  • Promotion in government services.
  • Receive government subsidies and welfare schemes.

While I disagree with the principle of the bill, the incentives should be universalised. Regardless of how many children a couple has, these incentives need to be implemented for the welfare of the entire population.

Punishing those that don’t comply with the proposed bill does away with the purpose of “welfare” that the state supposedly wishes for.

While we have elected leaders in the parliament accused of rape and murder, denying those with more than two children to contest local elections is ironic. In the new Union Cabinet, 42% of the ministers declared they had criminal cases against them.

Why The Bill Is Problematic

The bill states, “In Uttar Pradesh, there are limited ecological and economic resources at hand. It is necessary and urgent that the provision of basic necessities of human life including affordable food, safe drinking water, decent housing, access to quality education, economic/livelihood opportunities, power/electricity for domestic consumption, and a secure living is accessible to all citizens.”

Poor India
Millions of India’s poorest do not have access to basic amenities.

Whenever the question of population control arises, it is often at a time when the social conditions have disintegrated. The reasons for the systemic problems of poverty, hunger, homelessness and dwindling resources like food and shelter is not the number of people in a country, but the disproportionate distribution of resources.

Poverty and other social ills are not a result of overpopulation; they are directly affected by the few people who control capital. It’s, thus, not overpopulation that leads to these problems; it’s the hoarding of capital by a few and conditions of exploitation that need to be in place for the capitalistic system to thrive.

The population of a country is often used as a scapegoat for these problems. We often hear people say that India’s population has held back the development and welfare of the masses. That is a false assumption.

According to estimates by the UN, 40% of food produced in India is wasted and 194 million people go hungry every day. Thus, India does not have a resource issue; it has a policy and systematic issue.

In a recent report by The Print, Kerala and Punjab received the highest level of basic services amongst the asset poor. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, on the other hand, were the worst performers. Access to basic resources made “Kerala’s poor, UP’s rich”.

We see that Kerala has managed to control its population while UP hasn’t. Social conditions play an important role in how many children there are in a family. According to census 2011, India has over 10 million child labourers.

In order to survive, the poor look at children as assets rather than an expense. The exploitation of labour has led to children being seen as a set of helping hands in low-income families.

Therefore, it’s not far fetched to conclude that improving the social conditions of the poor would automatically lead to better family planning.

The bill also proposes introducing population control as a subject in secondary schools.

In China, they had to scrap their one-child policy due to the ageing and shrinking of the workforce.

Representative Image.

While there has been opposition from mainstream parties to the bill, right-wing groups have also raised a voice against it. But the reasons in both cases are either based on jingoistic appeals/viewing people as commodities or racism/Islamophobia.

A Samajwadi Party MP questioned where we would get the “manpower” from in case of war. VHP and other right-wing groups, on the other hand, suggest that the bill wouldn’t stop Muslims from procreating, in turn, hinting at the “fear” of Muslims outnumbering Hindus in India.

The bill states, “Attempts would be made to ensure there is a population balance among various communities in the state. Extensive campaigns would be run in communities, groups, and geographical areas where fertility rates were higher.”

Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma recently said that the difference in population growth rate between Hindus and Muslims was “dangerous”. Being BJP ruled states, UP and Assam seem to be eyeing this bill for political motives rather than welfare. It won’t be surprising if the policy is used to harass and target particular communities in the future.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

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