On the agenda of the Health Ministry is Population Stabilisation Incentive Fund
The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry proposes to ask all Central Ministries to set up Population Stabilisation Incentive Fund which would be utilised to incentivise the States and Union Territories that have achieved the replacement total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.1 or less.
TFR of a population is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime. With the TFR in India continuing at 2.8 per cent, the Health Ministry has already pushed back the target date for achieving population stabilisation to the year 2070 from 2045 as stipulated in the National Population Policy (NPP) 2000.
While there is a declining trend in fertility rates in 14 States, northern and central parts of the country continued to have persistently high TFRs ranging from 3 to 3.9 per cent. It is estimated that nearly half the population growth will be from just seven States and 22 per cent from Uttar Pradesh alone. This is against the combined contribution of 13 per cent from the southern States of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
In a proposal to be submitted to the Planning Commission that lists the Health Ministry's targets and programmes for the 12th Five Year Plan, it has suggested that the Plan panel ask all Central Ministries to set up Incentive Fund which would also be used to incentivise States with TFR that are taking positive steps towards controlling population growth. This additional allocation would be a kind of ‘untied fund' available with the State governments, with the rider that with this money, works can be taken up only in this sector.
This will also encourage the other States with high rate of population growth to take necessary steps.
Choice to women
The proposals also suggest that population stabilisation programmes should aim to empower women to make their own choices on when they would have a child and also on how many children they would have through more effective counselling and easier access to contraception. “It would also mean a rise in the proportion of male sterilisations and the use of methods that involve greater and more informed male participation,” the Health Ministry's proposal says.
Delaying the age of marriage and pushing back the age of mother at the time of the first child are also very basic requirements for women's health and women's rights. Adequate spacing between children is also essential to safeguard health of women and access to counselling and contraceptives for enabling this is a women's right.
There shall be universal access to safe quality abortion services and the same criterion of universal access will apply to emergency obstetric care. The Twelfth Plan should lead every district to provide universal access to quality reproductive and child health care.
Declining sex ratio
Describing the declining sex ratio in the 0 to 6 years age group as the single greatest concern, the Health Ministry recommends that the Twelfth Plan give priority to an effective implementation of the laws in place to curb illegal sex determination and sex selective abortion in addition to raising awareness against son preference attitudes. It would also address the problems of the neglect of the girl child leading to higher child mortality.