India does not need population law: Experts


India does not need a population policy and efforts should be doubled to increase the country’s skilled population, experts told Anadolu Agency.

The UN said India is projected to become the world’s most populous nation by 2028, with more than 1.45 billion, even though, its fertility rate has declined from 3.6 to 2.4 children in the last three decades.

The number of Indian births peaked more than a decade ago and is decreasing, according to the World Population Review.

Last month, federal minister Prahlad Singh Patel said the country will soon have a law for population control. “It will be brought soon,” he said.

But former top bureaucrat and noted author Shahabuddin Yaqoob Quraishi said as the population growth has slowed in the last few years, India does not need a law.

“We needed a law 60 or 70 years ago, but not now,” he told Anadolu Agency on the eve of World Population Day, observed Monday. “We have had a national population policy … which has been very effective. We have achieved all the targets. Now the population has come close to stabilization. Over 20 states have already gone below the replacement level (2.1 births per woman). Right now, it is too late to be talking about a law.”

Quraishi said that a law is bound to bring compulsion and restrictions like penalty clauses.

“Now we have already achieved success, what will a law achieve? Although population control is a good idea and we were the first country to have a national family planning program in 1951, the law will be counterproductive. All we need to do is improve the health services of those states, which need to be upgraded,” he said.

India’s last census in 2011 revealed that Hindus make up 79.8% of the population, while Muslims are at 14.2%.

India will soon conduct one of the most extensive censuses in its history.

Quraishi, who recently published The Population Myth: Islam, Family Planning, and Politics in India, said in the recent past, governments have proposed denying jobs to anyone who has more than two children.

The province of Uttar Pradesh last year proposed denying government jobs, promotions, subsidies and the right to contest local elections to anyone who has more than two children.

“Such ideas are not good. A five-state study by Nirmala Buch (former Indian Administrative Service officer) showed that coercive policies are ineffective in reducing fertility,” said Quraishi.

He said India has turned population explosion into a demographic dividend.

“Because our human resources are spreading across the globe. It is less than 5% of our people with requisite skills to be of any use to society. Whereas Korea is over 90%. If India doubles its skilled population to 10%, imagine the benefits and we will become a powerhouse,” he said. “Our focus should be on improving the quality of education, and skill development. This is where the country and the government should focus on,” he said.

Wait for more figures

In 2019, a Population Regulation Bill, proposing the introduction of a two-child policy per couple, was introduced in parliament. It was, however, withdrawn earlier this year as the health minister argued that the government had successfully used awareness and health campaigns to achieve population control, rather than force.

Director of the Population Research Centre, Kumool Abbi, run by Panjab University in the northern city of Chandigarh, told Anadolu Agency that before taking steps on forming a population law, the country should hold its next census.

“The best thing is to wait for more figures to come out. We could wait, then make a decision regarding it. Once we will have had more figures, we can think about what strategy to adopt. They should wait,” she said.

Abbi added that if there is any law, it should not be coercive. “It should be incentive-based,” she said, and the focus should be on creating awareness among people.

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