The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) expresses grave concern over the Draft Uttar Pradesh Population Control, Stabilisation and Welfare Bill, 2021 which forms part of its Population Policy 2021-2030. The Draft was made public on 11 July, 2021. The Draft begins with the completely false and now abandoned premise that a large population is the cause of poverty and then goes on to punish the poor for their poverty and lack of access to education, healthcare and decent livelihood which are now universally recognised as crucial to controlling the birth-rate.
The Draft Bill contains many punitive clauses against those couples who have more than two children and says that they will be ineligible to fight elections and their subsidised rations will be restricted to only two children. They will also be denied access to Government jobs and schemes and, if they are already employed, they will be denied promotions and increments. On the other hand, those observing the two-child norm will receive several benefits though it is unclear how this will actually be implemented. The only clear incentive is that if either of the parents undergoes sterilization after the birth of one child they will received Rs 1,00,000 if it is a girl and Rs 80,000 if it is a boy.
In a State bedeviled by corruption and inefficiency it is not difficult to imagine the horrors to which millions of poor families will be subjected. Our objections, however, are not only to what will inevitably be faulty implementation of the Draft Law’s provisions but to the provisions themselves.
States which have a high Infant Mortality Rate, where institutional births are fewer and where female illiteracy is high have a much higher birth rate than others. UP has an IMR of 47 deaths per 10,000 live births between the ages of 0 and 5 while Kerala has an IMR of 10 for the same. In UP the percentage of institutional births is 67 per cent while it is 99.4 per cent in Kerala. This means, of course that the MMR in UP is much higher than Kerala. Female literacy in Kerala is 91 per cent while in UP it is 61 per cent (often this means only that the woman can sign her name). It is not surprising that Kerala has a birth rate of 1.8 per cent while in UP it is 2.7 per cent. Interestingly enough, the Population Policy document issued by the UP Government states that it will take steps to make improvements in all these parameters. While the real reasons behind the high birth rate are being recognised by this admission, poor families are sought to be penalised for what the Government has failed to achieve.
UP also suffers from an adverse sex ratio of 879:1000 females to males. In a situation where the PcPNDT Act has already been weakened and its enforcement is considerably reduced, if the Draft Bill is enacted it will certainly worsen and female feticide will increase exponentially. Women will also be subjected to much violence and harassment if the two permissible infants are female.
The Draft, in keeping with the practice of the Yogi Government, makes comments about ‘bigamy’ and about ‘communities’ that have more children. This has been done deliberately to try and communalise the issue of population planning and garner support for it from some sections.
AIDWA has always taken a strong position against anti-poor, coercive population policies emanating from both the Central and several State Governments. Such policies hurt poor families, especially poor women. Those at the bottom of the economic and social hierarchy are the worst victims. We call upon political parties, women’s organisations and all democratic organisations and groups to oppose this Draft Bill and to do everything possible to prevent its enactment.