Skip to main content

Population control? 10% Indian couples want to delay next pregnancy, but fail

Counterview Desk
Shireen Jejeebhoy, director at Aksha Centre for Equity and Wellbeing, previously senior associate at the Population Council, India, argues that the debate on the country's population was fuelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address to the nation, where he drew attention to “concern” about the challenges posed by this ‘exploding’ population growth, needs to centre around the promotion of rights and education, instead of the language of explosion and the threat of coercion that this term implies.
The debate has since intensified – with Union minister Sanjeev Balyan recently saying that the Central government is working on formulating the population control law, it is the reason for “most problems we are facing in this country”, including “pollution, poverty, and lack of sanitation facilities” and that “Bharat Mata cannot bear this burden anymore".
Disputing the claim, an incisive analysis in the top NGO journal, “India Development Review”, Jejeebhoy insists India's population explosion narrative is misleading.

Text:

Is the discussion of population explosion relevant for India today? India’s population has indeed reached 1.37 billion, according to the recently released United Nations World Population Prospects, and it will continue to increase over upcoming decades, even if all Indian families choose to have just two children, because of the sheer numbers of the population entering into the reproductive ages. However, we must recognise India’s significant declines in fertility.
Our total fertility rate (TFR), the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime, is 2.2 and has reached replacement level (2.1), that is, the level of fertility at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next, in 17 of 28 states and 8 of 9 Union Territories (UT). This means that couples in most parts of India have just two children.
And in the remaining states and one Union Territory (Dadra and Nagar Haveli), the pace of the decline over the last decade has been significant in most areas, and across all social groups, and will likely reach replacement levels in the next two decades. The wanted total fertility rate in India, that is, the number of children a couple wants or wanted over the course of their married life is just 1.8, well below replacement level in all but four states and not a single UT (click here).
Rather than our patriotic duty being defined by the number of children we bear, the narrative must shift to enabling all couples to achieve the number of children they want. One in ten Indian couples wants to delay the next pregnancy but fails to practise a method of contraception, because methods of their choice are inaccessible, they don’t know about how to use these methods, or the system does not support them to overcome family objections and other obstacles.
As a result, the unmet need for family planning is widespread, especially among the young, the population most likely to shape the future course of India’s fertility. Among them, more than one in five (22 percent) wish to postpone pregnancy but don’t have the information, means or self-efficacy to do so (click here). Equally, for those who have an unintended pregnancy, the right to seek a safe abortion is effectively constrained by limited awareness of its legal status and the paucity of facilities and trained providers.
Our patriotic duty is also to ensure adherence to our enlightened laws and policies. Despite the Prevention of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), for example, more than one in four girls marry in childhood, and many without a say in when or whom they will marry. Both early marriage and the early childbearing that ensues are violations of girls’ rights, denying them the very opportunities–education, work, health–that will enable them to space their pregnancies.
Rather than the explosion narrative, India needs to rededicate itself to the promotion of respect people’s right to choose to meet their childbearing goals
Our patriotic duty is also to ensure that all children attain at least a secondary school education. Yet the NFHS-4 reports that of those aged 20-24, just 60 percent of males and 52 percent of females had completed Class 10, and ASER reports have repeatedly shown mediocre learning outcomes. We have steadfastly denied boys and girls the right to grow into adulthood fully informed about pregnancy and how to prevent unintended pregnancy.
The provision of comprehensive sexuality education remains taboo in many settings–the Population Council’s UDAYA study (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh), for example, notes that just 19 percent of girls and 8 percent of boys had ever received sex education. As a result, many enter adulthood and marriage unaware of even the basics of how pregnancy happens–many do not know that pregnancy can occur the first time a girl has sexual relations, or that a missed period may be a sign of pregnancy. Neither teachers nor health care providers are comfortable about providing this information to the young.
Rather than the explosion narrative, India needs to rededicate itself to the promotion of rights. The health system must be reoriented and providers re-trained and sensitised into offering quality services that respect people’s right to choose, and enable them to meet their childbearing goals.
The education system must be reoriented to take responsibility to ensure that the young graduate from school is equipped with information and skills necessary to prevent unwanted pregnancy and ensure good reproductive health. Finally, contextual barriers must be overcome.
Women and girls must be empowered to make decisions about their own life, including when and how many children to have. Persisting patriarchal community attitudes about male entitlement that deny women and girls the opportunity to access quality education, livelihood opportunities, protection from violence, and a say in their own life must be overcome.
Promoting reproductive rights will ensure that couples have the number of children they want, and make informed choices about meeting their reproductive goals. At the same time, it will meet India’s population stabilisation goals. All without resorting to the language of explosion and the threat of coercion that this term implies.

Comments

SS Corporation said…
This is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.
Thanks for making blogs which are useful to couples of Hindus and sheikh religion. Hindu Sikh wedding

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

How GMOs would destroy non-GMO crops: Aruna Rodrigues' key submissions in SC

Counterview Desk The introduction of Bt and HT crops will harm the health of 1 billion Indians and their animals, believes Aruna Rodrigues, who has made some 60 submissions to the Supreme Court (SC) during the last 20 years. As lead petitioner who filed Public Interest Litigation in 2005, during a spate of intense hearings, which ended on 18 January 2024, she fought in the Apex Court to prevent the commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Indian agriculture. 

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

Corporatizing Indian agriculture 'to enhance' farmer efficiency, market competitiveness

By Shashank Shukla*  Today, amidst the ongoing farmers' protest, one of the key demands raised is for India to withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO). Let us delve into the feasibility of such a move and explore its historical context within India's globalization trajectory.

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .

Interpreting UAPA bail provisions: Is Supreme Court setting the clock back?

By Kavita Srivastava*, Dr V Suresh** The Supreme Court in its ruling on 7th February, 2024 in   `Gurvinder Singh v State of Punjab’ held that its own well-developed jurisprudence that "Bail is the rule and jail the exception" will not apply to those charged under the UAPA.

A 'distorted narrative' of Indian politics: Congress failing to look beyond LS polls

By Prem Singh*  About 15 days ago, I told a senior journalist friend that there are not even two   months left for the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi is roaming around on a delectation (tafreeh). The friend probably found my comment exasperating and replied that he is not on a delectation trip. The conversation between us on this topic ended there. 

Livelihood issues return to national agenda ahead of LS polls: SKM on Bharat Bandh

Counterview Desk  Top farmers' network, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has claimed big success of Grameen Bharat Bandh and industrial /sectoral strikes, stating, the “struggle reflected anger of farmers, workers and rural people across India”, adding, the move on February 16 succeeded in bringing back peoples’ livelihood issues in the national agenda just ahead of the general election to the Lok Sabha.