Bageshree S.

It is coercive and anti-poor, says NGO

‘Focus on the health indicators of women and children’

‘In most cases family size is linked to poverty’

Bangalore: Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s recent proposal to limit welfare schemes of the State to families that have not more than two children, has been described by Jana Arogya Andolana Karnataka (JAAK) as a “coercive, anti-poor, anti-people policy”. It has said that the Government would do well to instead focus on the health indicators of women and children in the State, which gives greater cause for concern.

The JAAK, an organisation working on health issues in 18 districts of Karnataka and part of a national network, has presented evidence of the grave consequences of the two-child norm from health data from Karnataka and the record of other States that have introduced the norm.

The document prepared by the JAAK points to one significant factor: Karnataka’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has remained stable at 2.1 from National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-2 to NFHS-3. Contraceptive use has increased from 58 per cent to 64 per cent. “So why is the Government desperate to reduce the fertility level,” it asks.

On the contrary, it says that the State Government should worry about the declining health indicators of women and children.

Consider this: The proportion of anaemic pregnant women has gone up from 48.6 per cent in NFHS-2 to 59.5 per cent in NFHS-3. The proportion of anaemic infants has jumped up from 70.6 per cent in NFHS-2 to 82.7 per cent in NHFS-3. Vaccination coverage has dropped from 60 per cent to 55 per cent, and 37.6 per cent children aged below three are underweight.

The Infant Mortality Rate in the State continues to be “unacceptably high at 43.2 per 1,000 live births and ranks 12th in the country,” says the document.

Premdas, convening member of the JAAK, says that the focus on the two-child norm amounts to “sidetracking from the main issue of human development”.

“A recent study in Rajasthan has found that the two-child norm has led to forced abortions, abandonment and neglect of the girl child, and ill-treatment and abandonment of women who bear female children by their husbands and in-laws,” says the document.

In most cases family size is linked to poverty. “Where the two-child norm is linked to political participation, studies have found that it disproportionately affects the participation of those who are poor and those belonging to socially discriminated castes (SCs/STs) and restricts their voices in democratic, local self-government,” the document says.