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2-child norm for local bodies hurts sex ratio

2-child norm for local bodies hurts sex ratio
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Research finds drastic consequences

India’s attempt at a China-type population control policy appears to have had drastic but unintended consequences. Laws enacted by State governments in the late 1990s and 2000s restricting political eligibility to candidates with two or less children did reduce family sizes in those States, but severely affected the sex ratio, a new research has found.

Over the period, 11 Indian States passed laws disqualifying persons with more than two children from contesting panchayat elections. Some States like Bihar, Gujarat and Uttarakhand enacted such laws later, while Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh repealed their laws after 2005. Uttarakhand and Bihar implemented the law only for municipal elections.

In a working paper, economists S. Anukriti from Boston College and Abhishek Chakravarty of the University of Essex looked at seven States — Rajasthan, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra — in which such laws were in effect between 1992 and 2005.

Using data from various rounds of National Family Health Survey (NFHS) and District-Level Household Survey (DLHS), the researchers found that there was a marked decline in the number of women in the general population reporting third births exactly one year after the new policy was announced; the first year was a “grace period” in all of the State laws.

This decline was relative to that State’s own history of decline in fertility as well as other States which didn’t enact such laws.

Anti-poor, anti-women laws

Laws enacted by 11 State governments in the late 1990s and 2000s restricting political eligibility to candidates with maximum two children has severely affected the sex ratio, a new research has found.

So did the norm for politicians effect a change in the overall population? “We think that the effect is not so much from a role-model effect via people emulating local leaders, but more from people’s desire to remain eligible for future elections themselves. This is because the decline in fertility begins immediately after the grace period ends, whereas a role-model effect would take some time to become visible,” Dr. Chakravarty explained to The Hindu.

The research by economists S. Anukriti from Boston College and Abhishek Chakravarty of the University of Essex also shows that the enactment of these laws led to the worsening of sex ratio in these States. This was particularly true for upper caste families whose first child was a daughter.

There is evidence that men were divorcing their wives to remain eligible for elections, and that such laws were putting the third children at a disadvantage, Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of Population Foundation of India, told The Hindu. “These laws – which are purely political decisions – are completely unacceptable. They are anti-poor and anti-women,” she said. “In a country with such a vast unmet need for family planning measures, which is unable to guarantee the survival of children, it is unacceptable that such laws are imposed,” Ms. Muttreja said. Across the world, data has shown that when women got educated, they reduced fertility themselves without needing laws, she said. Moreover, such laws disproportionately impact the poor whose children have worse chances of survival, Ms. Muttreja said.

In 2009, Chintaram Sahariya, an adivasi farmer, stood for and won the sarpanch’s seat in his panchayat – or so he thought. The losing candidate appealed against Mr. Chintaram in Rampur Todiya, a panchayat in Rajasthan’s Baran district, and the latter was disqualified. “I have four sons and admitted as much in my affidavit. I had no idea about the law. The man who appealed against me himself had three children,” he told The Hindu over the phone. “You will not find a Sahariya with less than four children,” Mr. Chintaram said. “So should all of us quit politics?”

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Printable version | Apr 26, 2018 3:12:48 PM | http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/twochild-norm-for-local-bodies-hurts-sex-ratio/article6388785.ece