NEW DELHI: Amid speculation that the government may be working to bring a law to regulate population, the health ministry has stressed no such plan is on the cards.
Sources said that Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya is strongly opposed to the idea of regulating population by force at a time when campaigns and awareness creation are showing results and have led to a dip in numbers, top official sources said.
“We are not working on any proposal to bring a law or a policy on population control,” a senior health ministry official told TOI.
India’s total fertility rate (TFR) has declined from 2.2 in 2015-16 to 2.0 in 2019-21 — indicating average number of children per woman — which is below the replacement fertility level of 2.1. The latest NFHS-5 data also shows that women of all religious communities are now on average giving birth to fewer children than in the past.
The health ministry’s stand assumes significance in the wake of recent comments by Union minister of state for food processing Prahlad Patel that there could soon be a law on population control. Patel’s remark sparked a buzz about a shift from the stand government had taken in Parliament this year where Mandaviya argued against the need for a law in view of the decline in population growth. It grew when BJP chief J P Nadda recently said that discussions have been on and that the process of making a law takes time.
When asked about Nadda’s comment, health ministry officials refused to comment saying that they are unaware of the context in which he spoke and; more specifically, the question that he responded to. They, however, felt that Nadda’s reference could be to the aspiration of BJP governments in UP and Assam to have a population policy.
According to NFHS-5 data, while India has made significant progress in population control measures in recent times, there are wide inter-regional variations with five states still not having achieved a replacement level of fertility of 2.1. Bihar (2.98), Meghalaya (2.91), Uttar Pradesh (2.35), Jharkhand (2.26) and Manipur (2.17) are the five states, according to the NFHS-5 conducted from 2019-21.
In April this year, Mandaviya had firmly opposed a private member bill by BJP’s Rakesh Sinha in Parliament, which sought to enforce a two-child rule with penal provisions for violations to stabilise the country’s population.
Mandaviya had told Rajya Sabha that instead of using “force (jabran)”, the government had successfully used awareness and health campaigns to achieve population control. The bill was withdrawn following Mandaviya’s intervention.
Arguing against the need for a population control law, health ministry officials say the results of the National Family Health Survey and census are indicative that population growth has declined over the years and that the government’s efforts are in the right direction.

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