Noting that those keeping the size of their families small are practising a form of patriotism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Independence Day speech on Thursday, set off speculation that a renewed governmental push for population control may be in the offing, as in the States such as Assam.
The issue of population control and its advocacy by the political class is not new.
A total of 35 private member Bills regarding population control have been introduced in Parliament since Independence, with the Congress MPs contributing the largest number.
Additionally, eight members from the BJP, five from the TDP, two from the All India Anna Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam and one each from the Trinamool, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal have introduced such Bills.
The latest was introduced in December 2018 by Union Minister (then MP) Sanjeev Balyan in the Lok Sabha with the backing of 125 MPs.
Going beyond educational and mass awareness programme on population control or policy interventions has always been a touchy issue, following incidents of coercive sterilisation, even forced vasectomies, during the Emergency between 1975 and 1977.
Manu Gaur heads Taxab, which works on population issues, and his Responsible Parenting Bill, 2019, was the model for Mr. Balyan’s Bill. He acknowledges that there is a mental block, but says population control should not run aground overs fears of forced sterilisation.
“You will have noticed that Prime Minister Modi also only spoke of responsible parenthood,” he says.
“In the Bill that we are pushing, parents who have more than two children will be provided health care and basic nutritional subsidies available to others, but they will be kept out of all other facilities, including standing for polls, government jobs, and will be charged double the GST for every child over the two child norm,” Mr. Gaur said.
The Assam government has barred (from a set cut-off) all those with more than two children from government jobs and made rules preventing such parents from contesting elections to the local bodies and other positions.
The significance of Mr. Modi flagging the issue from the ramparts of the Red Fort has not been lost on anyone, and there is a feeling that a more interventionist move on population control is probably on the anvil.