The Centre told the Supreme Court on Saturday that it was against coercing couples into having a “certain number of children” in a bid to curb population explosion.
In fact, the government said that 2001-2011 witnessed sharpest decline in decadal growth rate among Indians in a 100 years.
“The Family Welfare Programme in India is voluntary in nature, which enables couples to decide the size of their family and adopt the family planning methods, best suited to them, according to their choice, without any compulsion,” the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in an affidavit.
It said India was a signatory to the Programme Of Action (POA) of the International Conference on Population and Development, 1994, which was unequivocally against coercion in family planning.
“In fact, international experience shows that any coercion to have a certain number of children is counter-productive and leads to demographic distortions,” the Ministry explained.
The government was responding to the court’s direction to a petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay to introduce a population control law. Mr. Upadhyay said population explosion had been the bane of the country.
“Population explosion is more dangerous than bomb explosion and without implementing effective population control measures, Healthy India, Literate India, Prosperous India, Resourceful India, Strong India, Secured India, Sensitive India, Clean India and Corruption and Crime-Free India campaign won’t succeed,” Mr. Upadhyay had made a strong appeal in court.
But the government said India had been witnessing a “constant decline” in the total fertility rate (TFR).
It said that according to the Census statistics, “2001-2011 was the first decade in the last 100 years which had not only added lesser population as compared to the previous one, but also registered the sharpest decline in the decadal growth rate from 21.54% in 1991-2001 to 17.64% in 2001-2011”.
The Ministry said the TFR which was 3.2 at the time when National Population Policy 2000 was adopted has declined substantially to 2.2 as per Sample Registration System of 2018.
“The wanted fertility in India as per National Family Health Survey IV is only 1.8 as against the actual fertility of 2.2 prevailing at that time, indicating thereby that couples on an average do not want more than two children. Also, as many as 25 out of 36 States/UTs have already achieved the replacement level fertility of 2.1 or less,” the Ministry pointed out.
It said the National Population Policy 2000 had clearly articulated objectives.
There was also the National Health Policy (NHP) 2017 which provided for a policy guidance to inform, clarify, strengthen and prioritise the role of the government in shaping health systems in all its dimensions.
“The NHP sets out indicative, quantitative goals and objectives which includes the achievement of TFR of 2.1 by 2025,” the Ministry said.