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Scrap penal clauses from population control Bill: BJP MP

Members raise concerns during RS discussion

February 04, 2022 10:33 pm | Updated February 05, 2022 07:59 am IST - New Delhi

Rajya Sabha in session on February 4, 2022.

Rajya Sabha in session on February 4, 2022.

The Rajya Sabha on Friday discussed a private member Bill on population regulation moved by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Rakesh Sinha.

During the discussion, another BJP member Vikas Mahatme sought the removal of penal clauses from the Bill stating that if a family was penalised for more than two children, then the third child would develop a feeling that “he is an unwanted child”. “This is a very dangerous thought for the nation. Therefore, I say we can do something else instead of penalising,” he said. Mr. Mahatme said though he supported the Bill, he felt it could encourage “sex selection” and would lead to female foeticide.

Mr. Mahatme said efforts should be made to achieve population control as per the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Bill revitalises efforts towards promoting small family norms of up to two children per couple. It also proposes to ensure healthy birth spacing through measures related to augmenting the availability, accessibility and affordability of quality reproductive health services.

‘Resources limited’

While moving the Bill, Mr. Sinha said India had a land availability of only 1.2 hectare per person, while the resources that get regenerated automatically was 0.43 only. “The ecological footprint which we use and the gap between their regeneration is 187%. We are an ecological debtor,” he said, adding that if this continued for 30 years, then resources would be exhausted and people would not be able to lead a dignified life.

“But in India, whenever population control is discussed, it is always dragged into the communal angle,” said Mr. Sinha. Some people see demographic dividend in the growing population but it was being used as cheap labour globally, he said.

“People are being misled in the name of demographic dividend. Many countries need cheap labour, from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, so they try to mislead and drive the discourse about demographic dividend. They talk about replacement level. As per the Total Fertility Rate figures, the national average is maintained in 174 districts, while the TFR is 4 in 72 districts. People who attack us in the name of saffron demography do not want the truth to come out,” he said.

He added that marital fertility rate in Bihar was more than 6%, whereas the overall rate in India is 4.9%. “In Andhra Pradesh, the MFR is 3.4%, Kerala 5.1 %, Tamil Nadu 3.7%, Telangana 3.6%. Average is always delusionary. A flyover will have to endure the weight of 12 persons, even though the average will come to 6 if I have 11 children and for example Manoj Jha ji has one child...There is a provision in this Bill that after this law is made, it will not be implemented for 18 months. Awareness should be spread among people during that period,” Mr. Sinha said.

Congress member Ami Yagnik questioned the motive behind bringing in the Bill. “When we should be talking about human development and human rights, a Bill is moved on population regulation. What will happen if people start going for sex selection? It is a misplaced Bill, should not be entertained,” she said.

Abdul Wahab of the IUML said that China was giving incentives to have more children.

Congress member L. Hanumanthaiah said: “This kind of propaganda should stop. The myth should be broken that a particular community is responsible for population increase.”

Fauzia Khan of the NCP said the Bill was an attempt to systematically alter the social fabric of India. “The biggest victim of this Bill would be women, irrespective of religion,” she said.

RJD member Manoj Jha said that in 2020, the government of India told the Supreme Court that coercion was not desirable. “Demography is serious business and should be left to demographers, not politicians. It will lead to female foeticide. Women would bear the brunt of the two-child norm,” Mr. Jha said.

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