Central population policy outperforms states’

India’s vexed population policy debate has just got fresh fodder.

Pankaj Sharma/Zee Research Group

India’s vexed population policy debate has just got fresh fodder with states pursuing independent policies registering higher growth rates than those embracing centrally approved National Population Policy, 2000.

While health is a state subject, individual states are free to choose the central template or follow a state specific policy to manage population control there. This has led to a varying performance; reigniting an earlier demand for a mandatory national prescription on the issue of population control.

India’s rather lackluster performance on population control can also be viewed in the fact that while China’s population grew from 1.20 billion to 1.33 billion, India’s population increased from 1 billion to 1.18 billion. This represented a 12 percent higher growth for India.

A Zee Research Group (ZRG) study of population control measures showed eight states that followed their own independent population policy registered an average population growth of 20.55 per cent during the decade between 2001 and 2011. The states that followed the central population control policy registered on an average 16.76 per cent growth during the last decade.

According to a written reply given by Jitendra Singh, junior minister in Home Ministry, during the just concluded Monsoon Session, states that follow National Population Policy, 2000 include – Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura, Andaman and Nicobar Island and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Karnataka is implementing its own policy to do deal with population control. However, National Population Policy, 2000 is also under consideration in this BJP ruled state. Eight states that follow Central population policy are – Delhi, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Assam and Manipur. The Home Ministry, however, did not offer the data for rest of the states.

While Dadra & Nagar Haveli topped the population chart with 55 per cent growth, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh followed with 21.44 per cent and 20.09 per cent growth respectively. BJP ruled Gujarat and Karnataka have also posted a high growth of 19.17 per cent and 15.67 per cent respectively. Andhra Pradesh and Andaman and Nicobar Island posted a growth of 11.10 per cent and 6.68 per cent respectively.

On the other hand, states that followed the national policy on population registered lower growth. Manipur, Chhattisgarh and Delhi increased their population by 25.61 per cent, 22.59 per cent and 20.96 per cent respectively. Assam, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal followed with growth rates of 16.93 per cent, 15.60 per cent and 13.93 per cent respectively. Punjab and Kerala posted a growth of 13.73 per cent and 4.86 per cent respectively.

The varying performance results have now forced a re-look at current population control policy framework in the country. Former deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha and vice-president of BJP, Najma Heptullah suggested the need to learn from China. “Look at China that is strictly implementing population control polices. India is obviously not doing enough.”

Heptullah, who was also a member of the National Commission on Population formed by NDA government in 2000, showed her disappointment over “tedious” approach towards controlling population growth. “I am distressed as there is no major effort being implemented to control population. There should be one conscious policy to keep population under control, which every state can implement as per its own will,” she opined.

But not all share her pessimism. Padam Shri and vice-chairperson, Piramal Healthcare, Swati Piramal reasoned, “Health is a state issue and many states are doing well to implement their own policies. We cannot enforce one population policy for states; they can decide on their own.”

The population control debate, however, remained stuck in the state versus centre controversy. Social activist and former NAC member Harsh Mander argued, “Our country is diversified and states are right in using their own policies for population control.”