Bengaluru: The Uttar Pradesh government unveiled the new population policy 2021-2030 last week, in a bid to reduce the gross fertility rate among women in India’s most populous state to 2.1 by 2026 and to 1.9 by 2030.
The draft of The Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilization and Welfare Bill, 2021), which was released on 10 July — World Population Day — proposes a two-child norm.
Those found in contravention of this policy will be barred from contesting the local body polls, from applying or getting a promotion in government jobs, and receiving any kind of government subsidy, among other provisions.
Similar policies have been around in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Meanwhile, the Assam government is also considering such a policy. Here’s a look at the similarities and differences in these policies across states.
What the UP draft law states
According to the Uttar Pradesh government’s draft legislation, those who are found to be in contravention of the two-child norm will not be eligible to benefit from government- sponsored welfare schemes, contest local body polls, apply for government jobs, be promoted in a government job, avail any kind of government subsidies, and can hold only up to four ration card units.
The draft also states that persons including government employees who adopt the two-child norm by undergoing voluntary sterilisation are eligible for incentives including rebates on charges for utilities, loans for construction, or purchasing of houses at nominal rates of interest etc.
Government employees can avail additional benefits including free healthcare facility, education up to graduation level, etc. if they have only one child and “undergo voluntary sterilization operation upon himself or spouse”.
The draft also outlines several exceptions to the policy including “multiple birth out of second pregnancy”, “disability of the first or second child”, “death of the child”, etc.
What other states say
Unlike the UP government’s extensive draft legislation, the two-child norm in many other states is only included as a part of the eligibility criteria for local body elections or civil service rules.
A look through the legislation in these states also revealed that unlike UP, the two-child policy wouldn’t exclude anyone from availing subsidies.
In Rajasthan, according to the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, over two children make people ineligible to contest panchayat elections. Prior to 2018, the state government had also mandated compulsory retirement for government employees on the birth of their third child. This policy, however, was scrapped by the state in July 2018 under then chief minister Vasundhara Raje.
Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh had made the two-child norm a criteria in 2001 for government jobs and local body elections. Four years later, both states discontinued the policy as a criteria for the elections as it was not applicable to assembly and parliamentary elections.
In Gujarat, the 2005 amendment to Gujarat Local Authorities Act barred those with more than two children from contesting the local body elections.
Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh also similarly preclude people with over two children from contesting zilla parishad elections, under Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, Odisha Zilla Parishad Act, Telangana Panchayat Raj Act and Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act, respectively.
Maharashtra also upholds the policy as an eligibility criteria for government employees under the Maharashtra Civil Services (Declaration of Small Family) Rule of 2005.
The Uttarakhand government in 2019 amended the Uttarakhand Panchayati Raj Act and made candidates with more than two children ineligible to contest the elections.
The amendment was, however, challenged in the high court by those preparing for village pradhan and gram panchayat ward member elections. The court directed that the amendment will only be applicable after 25 July 2019 and not before.
In Assam, the government enacted the Women Empowerment Policy in 2017, which mandated government employees to follow the two-child norm.
The state government is likely to bring a new legislation for the policy. According to Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, the population norms will be taken into account when considering loan waivers or other government schemes. This, however, will not be applicable to the tea garden workers or SC/ST community.
What experts say
P. Arokiasamy, head of the department of development studies at the Mumbai-based International Institute of Population Science, said such policies are not effective.
“Fertility levels have all come down in some states without having such kinds of policies. For example, in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, they reached the fertility rate of less than 2 in 1990,” he said.
“Uttar Pradesh is already on the low fertility trajectory and needs just a last push in terms of improving healthcare and development,” he added.
“The policy on two-child norm has not been independently evaluated in any Indian state and its efficacy has never been demonstrated. Similar policies implemented across states have failed to bring down the fertility rates to the desired level. In fact, there is evidence that population control measures can lead to negative consequences such as increases in sex selective practices and unsafe abortions, especially given the strong son-preference in the country,” Poonam Muttreja, executive director of non-profit Population Foundation of India, told ThePrint.
“A two-child policy is a threat to women’s empowerment and political representation… Instead, UP should prioritise addressing the high unmet need for family planning in the state (18.1 per cent as per NFHS-4), which is much higher than the national average of 13 per cent,” she added.