India: Population-Control – A Dismal Record Of Non-Performance – Brief Article

India: Population-Control – A Dismal Record Of Non-Performance – Brief Article – Statistical Data Included

Dr. Ashi R. Sarin


“The Indian Government was one of the first to formulate a National Family Planning Programme in 1951, which was later expanded to encompass maternal and child health, family welfare and nutrition. The government is committed to promoting the small family and to support population programs.

However, during more than three decades of population programs ‘watch’, I have found that there is a huge gap between ‘planning’ and its actual ‘execution’ and many of our statistics are screwed up. As a result, population ‘explosion’ continues unabated… According to the United Nations Population Information Network (POPIN), the annual growth rate of India is still 2.14% and the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) (sum of age specific fertility rates in a specific year) is 3.5. The women aged 15-49 using modern contraception methods were only 36%. On May 11 this year, we announced amidst much publicity glare the birth of the one billionth child, Aastha. Since then quite a few more million babies have been added to our population.

Our population now is second only to China. . . The comparison with China is misleading since China has about 20% of the world population and 7% of land area. In contrast, India has about 16% of the world population but has only about 2.4% of the total land area.

The United Nations Population Fund recently releasing the ‘population and reproductive health facts of India’ says that ‘the country was not a role model in terms of population control’. . .The Report also comes down heavily on sex ratios which are among the ‘worst in the world.’ The adverse ratio of 960 females to 1000 males is due to ‘sex preference for sons and prevalent practices of female foeticide and infanticide.’

Based on my personal experience, there is non-compliance both by clients and providers:

– Among those using condoms (6.4%), our own population-based study showed that overall 31.5% used them ‘erratically.’

– The statistics regarding condom use are greatly exaggerated…

– The numbers of IUD users are misleading…

– Although female sterilization is supposedly the most common (27.4%) method, most of these sterilizations are of women who have more than three or four children…

– The target-oriented approach to family planning was discontinued, because except for sterilization, there is no way of checking the actual contraceptive prevalence. Now with ‘no targets to achieve’, our population control programs have virtually come to a standstill.

What then is the solution? The NDA government at the Centre has constituted the National Commission on Population on May 11, this year- the day India crossed the one billionth mark – chaired by the Prime Minister… The government proposed to set up a national population stabilization fund to achieve the goals of the National Commission on Population.

The empowered action group attached to the Health Ministry will be entrusted with the task of making specific programs. These programs would focus on states that were lagging behind in containing population growth which would most likely account for nearly half of the country’s population in the next two decades. The population fund will specifically aid projects designed to contribute to population stabilization… Despite this new thrust, experts do not expect India’s population to stabilize before 2045… But unless we seriously address the issue of implementation and coordination, the national population policy will fail again.

The stabilization of population is a challenge… The success stories of China, Indonesia and Malaysia are good examples. There is the exemplary performance of states such as Kerala, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

What can we do at our own level as female reproductive health care providers? The least we can do is to create more awareness on family planning methods and spread the message to our communities where we live… To my mind, female illiteracy is the greatest obstacle to population control (the literacy rate of Indian women is still 38% as compared to 66% among men).

As an immediate measure, I suggest that the minimum marriage age of Indian women should be raised to 21 years from 18… This measure would also avoid the risks and mortality associated with teenage pregnancies. Government and the corporate sector should give incentives to couples with two or less children in the form of tax rebate, housing loans, jobs and promotion, etc. and there should be disincentives for those with three or more children…

We should introduce the new methods of contraception such as long acting injectables and implants. Drugs such as RU 486 should be made freely available and the techniques of emergency contraception should be widely publicized. New inexpensive methods of sterilization should be made available…

The impending population ‘catastrophe’ is real and time is fast running out. It is up to us all to do something about it. It is true that socio-demographic change cannot be brought about by the Government alone. Organizations like our’s will have to play an even more significant role and ensure cooperation of the people… I feel that what we lack is not planning but honest execution of our Programs…”

COPYRIGHT 2001 Women’s International Network

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group