Coercive Measures Never Work: Poonam Muttreja on UP's Population Bill

The Quint spoke to Poonam Muttreja of Population Foundation of India to understand why the proposed law is flawed.

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The draft of the proposed Population (Control, Stabilisation and Welfare) Bill, 2021 released by the Uttar Pradesh government has drawn a lot of criticism recently.

The Bill proposes to put in place a two-child policy to avail government benefits.

While the draft Bill has incentives for those with two or lesser kids, there are disincentives for those with more. If you have more than two kids, you will be debarred from applying for government jobs, receiving subsidies or contesting local body polls. If you are already a government employee, the implementation of this policy would mean that you will be barred from getting promotions.


'Would Have Dismissed it as Worthless Piece of Paper'

The Quint spoke to Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of Population Foundation of India (PFI), to understand why the proposed legislation is flawed and what are the alternate strategies that UP could implement for population stabilisation.

“I feel if I was anywhere in the government in UP, I would not have brought out this Bill and dismissed it as a worthless piece of paper.”
Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India

“Government data shows that women don’t wish to have more than two children so when people don’t want, people require access to family planning. It’s a simple demand and supply, and access issue,” she adds.

Suggestions for the draft Bill are open to the public till 19 July. The Bill comes ahead of the state elections next year, and has emerged as a focus area for the government. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has drawn flak from the Opposition in the state and has been accused of wanting to "murder the democracy" in Uttar Pradesh.

Last week, on the occasion of World Population Day, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also unveiled the state's Population Policy 2021-2030, saying that population control was the need of the hour and it was his government's aim to bring the birth rate down to 2.1 by 2026.

"Increasing population can be a hurdle in the way of development. Every community has been taken care of in Population Policy 2021-2030," Adityanath said.

Literacy and Better Income for Women A Solution

"Coercive measures don't work and have never worked anywhere in the world. The only country that enforced coercive policies is China, but China is not a democracy, India is. When know the results of the forced sterilisations that happened in the country."
Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of PFI

"India has millions of abortions every year and most of them are proxy for contraceptions for women who don't wish to have more children. Government data also suggests that most Indian women don't want more than two children. So, when people don't want more children, people need access to family planning. It's a simple demand-supply issue. Globally, literacy and enhanced employment has played a role in bringing down birth rates," Muttreja said.

"If the government really wants to stabilise population, why doesn't it implement the tried and tested methods?" she added.


Sex Selective Abortions and Skewed Sex Ratio

China's coercive two-child and three-child norms have led to demographic distortions, Muttreja points out.

"As a result of such policies, the sex ratio got skewed because China, like India, is a society which has a preference for sons over daughters. In India, we not only have a preference for sons but also an aversion towards daughters. Why would we want more sex selective abortions in India?"
Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of PFI

While disincentives are detrimental, according to Muttreja, even incentives necessarily don't work.

"Only 0.3 percent of Indian men get sterilised even though they are offered incentives. Why is that? It's because they feel that their virility will get affected," she said.


What Kind of Policies Do We Need?

Access to family planning at the door step is one of the crucial necessities for population stabilisation, Poonam Muttreja opined.

She also said that instead of sterilisation, India needs more options for temporary contraceptives.

"India needs to spend more money on temporary methods and family planning. We spend a meagre amount currently. The cost of inaction in family planning is going to be huge," she said.

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