New Delhi: As many as 36 private members’ bills for population control have been introduced in Parliament since Independence, of which maximum, 15, were moved by Congress MPs but no discussion could be held in the Parliament. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mention of the issue of population explosion during his Independence Day speech has raised hopes for enacting a law to check the exponential growth of population, which is eating into country’s resources.
Sources said most of the private members bills came from Congress MPs (15), followed by BJP (9), TDP (5), AIADMK (2), and one member each from TMC, RSP (Revolutionary Socialist Party), SP, MNS and RJD have introduced private member bills for population control measures. However, the subject was never debated through any of the bills even once.
Interestingly, in 1992, in the 10th Lok Sabha, the then Health and Family Welfare minister Late M.L. Fotedar introduced the 79th Constitutional amendment 1992 in the Rajya Sabha which is still under consideration till now.
In recent times, a petition on the issue was presented through 125 parliamentarians to the President. These parliamentarians had submitted a demand letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan for a discussion in the House in the 2018 winter session on the pending private members’ bills. However, time could not be allotted for discussion on the subject.
Last month, a BJP Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha introduced a private member’s bill seeking to enforce a two-child norm by giving incentives for those adopting the small family practice and penalties for those contravening it.
A source said that whenever parliamentarians ask questions related to population control, governments always refer to ICPD (International Conference for Population and Development), stating that India is bound by the rules and therefore it is not possible to bring a legislation for population control.
In 2015, MPs—J.C. Reddy and Parvesh Sahib Singh—had questioned the government in respect of population control and the reply mentioned the report of the ICPD. Similarly, the same reasons were given to questions asked by MPs Suresh Doddalalli and Uday Pratap Singh in 2017.
However, according to Manu Gaur, president of TAXAB (Taxpayers Association of Bharat), which is spearheading a campaign to enact a law for population control, the government can adhere to the restrictions imposed by ICPD and still bring an India-specific law. “The manifesto of ICPD allows any country to adopt processes and laws for any kind of population control and family planning measures for its citizens as per applicable legal provisions and culture and also no restrictions are placed on the freedom of the countries to do so,” he told The Sunday Guardian.
According to government figures, the 100 crore-th child (Aastha Arora) was born at Safdarjung Hospital on 11 May 2000. The population of India has risen by 42 crore in the past 18 years which works out to a rise of over 2 crore a year—whereas based on the difference between birth and death rates in India, the population should rise by about 1.60 crore a year. As a result, there is a question mark on these numbers by itself.
A study by the TAXAB says that since 1974, the government has spent around Rs 2.25 lakh crore on population control measures and family planning programmes. If the sums of money at the value of the rupee today are taken into account, it amounts to over Rs 20 lakh crore. Gaur said had the increase in population not been at such a high rate, this amount could have been utilised in other nation building activities.
The government, he said, has the power to pass legislation on population control and family planning as per point 20A in the concurrent list of the 7th Schedule of the Constitution of India. This was included through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment 1976 to the Constitution of India and was rendered applicable from 1 January 1977. On 22 February 2000, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee constituted the National Commission to Review the Working of Constitution, headed by Justice Venkatchalliah. After two years of in-depth study, a report of 1,979 pages was presented to the then Law and Justice Minister Arun Jaitley on 31 March 2002. The commission put forth a proposal in this report for a provision of small families for the purposes of population control. However, the report was not tabled in Parliament.