The BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers seem to be adept at changing stance at their convenience– a fact that cannot but raise apprehensions about their intent. Not long back on his trip to America, the Prime Minister was heard speaking proudly about the population of the country. Particularly he was eloquent to speak of the 93- million strong youth force which are the country’s assets. This was to bring home the point that given its manpower, India is in a position to tackle any hazard and face any challenge. How is it then at no great time gap, Modi and his followers have taken a u- turn to go all out for population control!
Yogi Adityanath, the BJP Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh has gone a step further mooting a draft bill, (Uttar Pradesh Population Control, Stabilization and Welfare) Bill 2021, aimed to bar people from having more than two children. The BJP government argues that population growth is a “hurdle in development”. Hence, the Bill stipulates that that people going against the directive would not be able to contest local body elections, apply for government jobs, get subsidies from the government and would be debarred from getting promotion etc. The BJP-led MP government is also reportedly going to follow the suit.
When the corona pandemic is wreaking havoc, people are dying in absence of proper healthcare, vaccine is in short supply, prices of essential items are soaring while income of toiling masses falling drastically due to mounting unemployment and rising job loss, the BJP governments instead of taking remedial steps in right earnest, are busy pushing population control. In fact, UP’s population grew between 25% and 26% each decade from the 1970s to the 1990s. Between 2001 and 2011, that dropped to under 21%. Census projections estimate that between 2011 and 2021 it has dropped further to 15.6%.
Why is this misplaced priority? Answer is simple. Divert people’s attention from the real cause of their misery and poverty and at the same time buttress another heinous political agenda of exacerbating anti-minority hatred to polarise people along religious line. Because the arch communal Hindutva camp has long been propagating that the minorities in whom polygamy is rampant, are increasing in number through population explode. But the fact is that polygamy is not rampant in India. Had that be so, how could the man-woman ratio in the country be 1000:940? Moreover, female foeticide and infanticide are more common among the Hindus than others which contributes to less number of women compared to men.
Further, birth rate among Indian Muslims it is 2.4 (national average 2.3) (2016 World Population Data). as per research finding; polygamy rate is 5.8% among Hindus and 5.6% among Muslims (Committee on the Status of Women in India,1974). Muslim children are more likely to survive to their fifth birthday than their Hindu counterparts, despite Muslim parents being relatively poorer and less educated than Hindu parents. By age five, mortality among Muslims is about 18 per cent less than among Hindus. That this Population Bill is brainchild of the Hindutva camp is also apparent from the RSS-BJP politician Sadhvi Pragya’s urge for not to have more than two children.
Those urging for restricting population growth often cite instances of other countries, e.g. China that had prospered significantly following one-child policy. They fail to realise China lately has reversed its policy because of a drastic drop in the strength of their work-force. China has learnt from experience that the negative impact of a stringent population control policy is bound to adversely affect the availability of a working population.
Also it cannot be disputed that among the poor in this country, regardless of their faith or practice adding to the number of children means greater contribution to family income. More hands means more earning source for the family. Poverty along with low level of education and consciousness are behind unplanned population growth, if any.
Let the government concentrate on the factors-economic-political-cultural-social-which are stemming from gruelling capitalist oppression and leading the countrymen of independent India irrespective of religion, caste or ethnicity to utter ruination.