If we go by the theory proposed by Robert Malthus, an economist who is a proponent of the thought that overpopulation leaves a denting effect on a nation’s economy by putting tremendous amounts of pressure on the nation’s resources. There is a general consensus among the Indian society that all major problems like poverty, low income per capita, famine, and disease are because of overpopulation. While there are economists who believe that more population means more demand and therefore leading to economic growth. But this theory can work under a situation when employment opportunities grow at the same pace as the labor force and people have easy access to learning and training. 

If we go by the neoclassical growth model, rising population stimulates the need for technological change in order to meet the demands for goods and services. Thus, increasing population means huge labor supply leading to an increase in output of goods, and therefore the per capita income of the nation increases too! Therefore, population growth has some short-term effects and some long-term effects. In India, where we have a crumbling education system, resources at the hands of only some part of the population, and no provision for continuous upskilling, overpopulation will always have a detrimental effect on India. 

India’s first step towards fighting against overpopulation was taken by Dr. Jawaharlal Nehru when he set up a sub-committee on population. The committee concluded that increasing the age of marriage, spreading the message about the use of contraceptives, special training for doctors, nurses, the establishment of birth control clinics, free contraceptive supply, and mass publicity campaigns are the best ways to fight this issue. Between 1951 and 1956, 6.5 million Rupees were spent to study the factors that contribute to population growth in India and then provide suggestions on family planning.

The government failed to encourage Indians to use contraceptives and as a result, only 22% of the allotted money could be spent. During the Second Five Year Plan (1956 – 1961), the government increased the spending from 6.5 million to 49.7 million rupees. India saw the development of 4,165 clinics with the introduction of sterilization operations. The distribution of contraceptives took momentum through primary health centers, dispensaries, and maternity homes. But the Indian women didn’t feel the requirement of such methods and also because of men being dominant in the house, the program wasn’t that much of a success. Only 44% of the budget allocated could be spent and the census of 1961 clearly indicated its failure as the population went on to increase exponentially.

It was during 1962 – 1977 when the Government of India set a goal of reducing the birth rate to 2.5% and was successful in spending 92% of 270 million rupees allocated for the programs.

When sterlization wasn't a matter of choice

Under the rule of the Indira Gandhi government, the cafeteria approach was adopted through which the use of condoms, diaphragms, jelly, creams, and foam tables increased a bit among the married couples. Sterilization played a key role in birth rate control as mass vasectomy camps were organized in different parts of the states. Cash and other incentives were used to encourage sterilization.

It was all going great when Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi during the emergency days started the process of forced sterilization which led to anger among the people. Vasectomies were held in many government offices, major railway stations. Passengers getting down the train were forced to pass through the vasectomy booths and get them sterilized. These coercive measures taken by the government voted them out in the 1977 elections. After this, India followed a voluntary approach and let people decide their family size. Today, India’s total fertility rate has fallen from 3.4 children per woman, aged 15-49 years, in 1992-93 to 2.2 children in 2015-16 according to data provided by National Family Health Survey. According to a health ministry report, the numbers are projected to fall to 1.93 by 2025, and to 1.8 by 2030, without any coercive law. 

Looking Back At The History Of Forced Sterilisation In India And Why It  Concerns Us Even Today

China that earlier followed the one-child policy has now changed its policy to allow 3-children. It was the latest national census report of China that hinted at the country’s decreasing working-age population.

China too late to abolish one-child policy?

China’s population which is currently at 1.41 billion may begin to shrink before 2025. According to Nankai University, a fertility rate of 1.8 is ideal for healthy population growth.  While Indian state governments have started implementing population control bills, the Chinese government is going to provide incentives to people like pensions, childcare, tax rebates for parents, housing subsidies, and gender equality. 

India is now at a bigger advantage as the dependency ratio will decrease to 50% by 2021 and every year 12-14 million people will enter the workforce. We don’t have to follow the China policy, rather look at Sri Lankan policy. Just like Sri Lanka invested more in child education, India in order to take advantage of its demographic dividend must invest heavily in health, nutrition, and skill development programs.


The draft contains the following incentives and disincentives : 

  1. Incentives to Public Servants: Public servants adopting two-child policy will get two additional increments during their tenure, subsidy towards the purchase of plot or house site or built house, soft loan for construction or purchasing a house on nominal rates of interest, rebate on charges for utilities such as water, electricity, water, house tax, maternity leave of 12 months with full salary and allowances, 3% increase in EPF, free health care facility and insurance.
  2. In addition to this, if the public servant has only one child and undergoes a voluntary sterilization operation upon himself or their spouse, they will get some additional incentives. The additional incentives include a preference for a single child in all educational institutes including AIIMS, IIM, IIT, etc, free education up to graduation level, and scholarship for higher education in case of a girl child. Preference will also be given during government jobs. 

For General Public: Almost similar incentives that will be provided to public servants, will be given to the general public. 

Couples living under Below Poverty Line: If the couple has only one child and undergoes sterilization upon himself or spouse, they will be given a one-time lump-sum amount of Rs. 80,000 for a boy and Rs. 1 Lakh for a girl. 

Disincentives and Revocation of Incentives 

No benefit under the Government-sponsored welfare schemes.

Ration card units limited to up to 4.

Bar on contesting the elections to Local Body. 

Bar on applying to government jobs.

Bar on promotion in government services.

Bar on receiving any kind of government subsidy.

The population control bill though seems to be a wonderful step towards controlling the population, it can lead to dangerous and unlawful abortions too! The focus should be more on the awareness and educating the people about contraceptives along with strengthening the skills of labor. Increasing the age of marriage for women can also help in controlling the population as it was seen in Sri Lanka. 

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