The government is planning a comprehensive scheme to stabilise the population in coordination with the States — but the plan does not involve legislation, according to Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Speaking at a function to mark five years of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Mr. Azad said that while the government was making all efforts to improve healthcare, the time had come to give priority to stabilising the population.

“We are in the process of making a comprehensive programme on population stabilisation in consultation with the State governments,” he said, adding: “I would like to make it clear that government doesn't want to achieve this through any legislation.”

Instead, the aim is to encourage the voluntary adoption of family planning measures, either by stopping child marriage, delaying the first child after marriage or spacing births. These measures would also help the health of both mother and child, Mr. Azad said.

Mr. Azad said the NRHM needed to change its focus and adopt an area-centric approach in order to “take healthcare to the doorsteps of the people in remote areas.”

These areas, to be identified by the State governments, would be given additional healthcare infrastructure, and monetary and HR incentives would be provided to ensure that resident health workers are available.

Vice-President Hamid Ansari emphasised the importance of local interventions at the district level. “The transformation from curative to preventive healthcare and human resource management are among the key challenges facing the NRHM in the years ahead,” he said.

Mr. Ansari also presented awards to the best performing NRHM States. While Assam topped the northeastern States and Rajasthan was the best among the high-focus States, Tamil Nadu was adjudged the best performer in the general category.