The UP Population (Control, Stabilization & Welfare) Bill, 2021, or the “UP Population Control Bill” was released by the UP State Law Commission on July 11, 2021. The Bill aims to control the population of India’s most heavily populated state Uttar Pradesh, which has a population of more than 200 million. While India’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has been on the decline, India is on track to overtake China as the world’s most populous country soon.
Moreover, about 60% of the total population of India is below the poverty line, which further exacerbates the population problem.
Salient Features of the Bill
The proposed Bill provides incentives as well as punishers in its provisions to promote the two-child policy norm.
Firstly, the Bill provides incentives for those in government service with two children in the form of 12 months maternity and paternity leave, full salary and allowances, and a 3% increment in the Employee Provident Fund. For those not in government service, the Bill provides for rebates on water, electricity bills, house tax and home loans.
Secondly, the Bill also provides incentives for those who get sterilised after a single child. These incentives will provide free healthcare and education to the child till 20 years of age.
However, thirdly, the Bill also prescribes punishing provisions for those who have more than two children. These people will be prohibited from applying for government jobs, seeking promotions, subsidies on government sponsored welfare schemes and contesting for local body elections.
While the Bill aims to create a “population balance” between different communities and show the state of Uttar Pradesh the path towards inclusive growth and economic development, there are certain challenges in the Indian context that make the Bill misguided in its understanding of the links between population and economic growth.
India, and especially the state of Uttar Pradesh have a history of gender and caste discrimination. The passage of the Bill could result in a rise in female foeticides and unsafe abortions, which would subsequently lead to poor women’s health in the state. Moreover, infringement of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution could also come into question as women’s agency over their bodies gets suppressed.
Economists and social scientists also argue against the negative model of punishment used by the UP Government to control population. It is imperative to understand the function of population in a country like India. Poor people have children due to extreme poverty, lack of awareness and the inability to afford contraceptives. Thus, empowerment and education would be the way to go for population control and economic development.
On the bright side, Chapter V of the Bill prescribes for “Duties of the Government” which aims to increase efforts to increase accessibility of contraceptives under family planning programs, establishing maternity centres, organising campaigns to increase awareness and provide for proper systems for safe abortions. In the present context, especially with the example of China, a wildly restrictive two- child policy may not be the way to go for India’s development.
References and further reading
- https://www.livelaw.in/pdf_upload/up-population- control-bill-draft-396420.pdf
- https://thewire.in/rights/rising-female-foeticide- targeted-harassment-ups-population-control-bill-may- be-dangerous
- https://www.thehindu.com/podcast/will-measure-like- ups-draft-population-control-bill-work-in-focus- podcast/article35369729.ece
- https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/uttar- pradeshs-draft-population-control-bill-bjp-weapon-to- alienate-muslims-violate-privacy-yogi-adityanath- welfare-schemes
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