Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has announced a new population policy which seeks to incentivise those who help in population control. The Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilisation and Welfare) Bill, 2021 provides provisions to increase the access of family planning programmes and focus on reducing new-borns. Apart from reducing new-borns, the focus area is in reducing maternal mortality rate and improving nutrition of adolescents between 11 and 19 years of age.
The Uttar Pradesh government plans to introduce promotions, increments, concessions in housing schemes and other perks to employees who adhere to population control norms, and have two or less children. For non-government employees who still contribute towards keeping the population in check, rebates in taxes on water, housing, home loans, etc, will be introduced to get mass participation and adherence. For a country like India, it’s the carrot and stick approach in policymaking which can be implemented and result in desired outcomes and the Yogi way of Population Control Bill is the best example of such a policy.
Ever since the MVA coalition came into power in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena which has been historically known as a vocal party on most issues has learnt to be pusillanimous. It has put ideology in the backburner and compromised its political stand just to please the Congress and retain power. On issues such as secularism and the Ayodhya Ram Mandir, the Shiv Sena doesn’t dare take a stand. For a party which prides itself on its aggressive posturing, it’s a pitiable situation where the leaders and karyakartas find themselves in.
Population has been a pan-India problem and every state faces strain on its natural resources when population explodes. There should ideally be a wide-spread consensus across the political spectrum for the population menace. The idea of uplifting the masses from poverty suffers a setback due to consistent growth in population. As per World Economic Forum, India’s population could overtake that of China as early as 2026. India’s population is set to reach over 1.6 billion by 2060. While overtaking China is inevitable, the country should welcome the move by Yogi Adityanath—the Chief minister of most populous state. However, the question arises whether other states can and will follow suit to curb the problem?
The Shiv Sena has historically supported the idea of population control and the late Shiv Sena Supremo Balasaheb Thackeray was articulate in advocating its need. In fact, the Shiv Sena had welcomed the remarks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he highlighted the need to tackle challenge of population explosion as recent as August 2019. In principle, no party in India opposes population control bill except the Congress. In practice, a secularism angle comes into it, making pseudo-secular parties wary of alienating the Muslim community. The fertility rate among minorities is much higher than the Hindu community. Even though the National Family Health Survey (NHFS) conducted in 2015-16 shows a narrowing of fertility gap between Hindus and Muslims, late demographer P.N Mari Bhatt had projected Hindus to achieve replacement fertility by 2021 while Muslims will achieve replacement fertility by 2031 only. The fertility gap is still too high at 23.8%, as per NHFS 2015-16 and 2021 census may give a clearer recent picture. According to 2005-06 NHFS, the figure was 3.4 children for Muslims and 2.6 children for Hindus or a fertility gap of 30.8%.
The Congress in recent decades has sought to play down the differential in order to pander to their minority vote-bank. The pseudo-secular turn of the Shiv Sena in order to retain the Chief Minister’s chair makes it desperate to toe the Congress line. From the perspective of the average voter in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena won’t be allowed to introduce a population control bill even if it believes in it ideologically. The hypocrisy of the Congress has been in bringing the secular angle to even matters unconnected to religion. Will Congress allow CM Uddhav Thackeray to bring a population policy in Maharashtra? The answer is “No” and nobody is surprised.
The writer is a BJP spokesperson, advisor to former Maharashtra CM, and Maharashtra in-charge of Uttar Bharatiya Morcha. The views expressed are personal.