Written by Shriya Bajaj and Sandeep Pandey
Recently, population control measures are being discussed by the states of Assam and Uttar Pradesh. Many other states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Karnataka and Odisha have been following a two-child norm for local body elections for a while.
The bill proposed by the Uttar Pradesh law commission suggests that those with one or two children be made eligible for benefits in terms of increment in job promotions, monetary benefits, health coverage benefits and many more perks. More than two children might involve penalties such as being debarred from government jobs and local body elections, and limiting ration cards to four people. The logic being offered is that a dip in population will allow UP to reach sustainable development goals and an equitable distribution of resources.
The population of India exploded between 1930 and 1980, with decadal growth of 11 per cent in the 1931 census increasing to around 25 per cent in the 1981 census. Since 1981, the population growth has seen declining trends, and in the 2011 census, India saw a 17.1 per cent decadal growth rate. Table 1 shows that UP has started showing a declining trend in the last decade, which is a positive sign towards population stabilization. A Lancet study in 2020 has projected that India’s population will peak around 2048 to 160 crores and thereafter it will see a decline and reach around 109 crores around 2100.
The Total Fertility Rate at the national level is 2.2 births per woman according to NFHS- 4, 2015-16 (NFHS, 2015-16). The TFR is projected to decline to 1.24 by 2020. Several states already have a TFR lower than the national average. Uttar Pradesh, too, has seen a decline in TFR from 4.8 children per woman in 1992 to 2.7 children per woman in 2016 (Table: 2). This is in spite of a fall in child mortality rate from 83 in 2000 to 43 in 2016 (Health and Family Welfare Department, U.P., 2021).
The present contraceptive use of any method for India is 53.5 per cent. Studies suggest that the sex composition of children is associated with contraceptive use in India. Couples with four or more children are more likely to use modern contraceptives, when they have at least one son and one daughter. They are less likely to use contraceptives when they have all daughters and no sons. For states like UP, the contraceptive uses of any method have been below the national average and unmet needs are quite high, around 18 per cent (Table 4). In such cases, the state should focus on providing a basket of choices to the family.
We also see that there is a reduction in the TFR for both the national level and UP, with the years of schooling. Also, states like Kerala and Punjab with a TFR of 1.6 indicate the same. From Table 5 it’s clear, the woman with no schooling has a high TFR of 3.07 for India and 3.5 for UP. As education levels increase, the TFR decreases up to 1.71 for India and 1.9 for UP for more than 12 more years of schooling. Studies have also indicated the same in the case of UP. Higher fertility was concentrated in districts with low levels of women’s education, predominantly in the north-central UP.
In India, the number of missing girls at birth has increased from 35 lakhs in 1987-96 to 55 lakhs in 2007-16. Bringing any such population control bill will worsen in states where sex-selective abortion is still practiced. Whereas there has been an overall improvement in sex ratio from 898 women per 1,000 men in 2001 to 912 in 2011, the child sex ratio (0-6 years) has seen a fall from 916 to 902 in the same period in UP. This should be a cause of concern as any coercive measure is likely to worsen this ratio against girls. Given UP’s large population and geography, family planning and fertility should be targeted. Bringing educational reforms and giving choices for family planning would work more appropriately. This would lead to an overall improvement in the fertility outcome of the state as well as at the national level.
Bajaj is M Phil in Population Studies from International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai and Sandeep Pandey is Vice President, Socialist Party (India)