Months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue of population control in his Independence Day speech, a BJP MP on Friday introduced a private member’s Bill in Lok Sabha, seeking to limit the number of children per married couple to two. The MP also introduced a Bill to amend the Constitution to implement the Uniform Civil Code.
The Population Control Bill, 2019, introduced by Ajay Bhatt, BJP MP from Nainital-Udhamsingh Nagar constituency in Uttarakhand, proposes that couples who have more than two children, after the Act comes into effect, should be deprived of all government benefits and the right to apply for a government job. They should also have to pay a fine up to Rs 50,000.
The Bill also proposes incentives for those who comply, including preference in government jobs.
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“After China, India is the most populous country in the world. Increasing population leads to more poverty. The increasing growth rate is pulling India into a vicious cycle of population and poverty. It is also leading to unemployment and inflation, and is a roadblock to economic development. So, it is important that a law is brought to control population,” Bhatt has said in the Bill.
According to the Bill, a couple would be allowed to have more than two children only if twins or triplets are born after the first child. Then too, they would have to seek the district authority’s permission during pregnancy.
The Bill proposes that state governments should set up state and district committees, which would keep a record of couples who follow the new law and also be responsible for promoting and incentivising smaller families. It has pegged the annual cost of sustaining this system at Rs 500 crore.
Making a pitch for population control, Modi, in his Independence Day speech, had praised those with small families. “The people who have played this huge role need to be honoured, and by setting them as examples, we need to inspire the segment of society who are still not thinking on these lines. We need to worry about population explosion,” he had said.
A private member’s Bill is a Bill introduced by a legislator who is not acting on behalf of the Executive. Such Bills are rarely passed by Parliament, most are not even discussed. Till date, only 14 such Bills have become laws — the last one was the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Bill, which was passed in 1970.
The Bill comes at a time when the national Total Fertility Rate (TFR) (number of children born to a woman at the end of childbearing age) is estimated to be only marginally higher than the replacement rate (the average number of children a woman needs to have to keep the population constant).
The latest estimates (for 2017) by the Sample Registration System (SRS) under the Registrar General of India (RGI) has pegged the country’s TFR at 2.2, and the replacement rate at 2.1.
In his Bill on implementing the Uniform Civil Code, Bhatt has sought amendment to Article 44 of the Directive Principles of the Constitution. Article 44 says: “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”.
In the statement of objective attached to the Bill, Bhatt has said, “India is a land of diverse religions. Every religion has different laws to govern matters of personal life such as marriage, adoption and succession. There is no universally acceptable uniform law codified in the country. This was envisaged by the framers of the Constitution. But because of being part of directive principles, it has not been implemented. To ensure there is uniformity, equality and social justice, it is important that Uniform Civil Code is brought in as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, BJP MP from Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, Satyapal SIngh, also introduced a constitutional amendment Bill, proposing that special rights given to minorities are also available to Hindus. “The Constitution allows minorities to run their religious places and educational institutions according to their own rules. But the same is not allowed to Hindus. Shirdi and Tirupati temples are managed by the government,” Singh said.
Asked if his Bill was related to recent developments in Banaras Hindu University, he said, “First, I do not agree with the view of the protesting students. Second, I had introduced this Bill three years ago as well.”
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