An unproductive idea: On U.P.’s new population policy

Socio-economic empowerment is more effective than coercion in cutting fertility rates

The incentives/disincentives approach has been denounced in the past by the National Human Rights Commission after such measures were introduced by several States in the 1990s and 2000s, i.e., Haryana, undivided Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The Supreme Court, in 2003, upheld a Haryana government law barring persons with more than two children from contesting local body polls, but the legal grounding of the moves impinging upon the informed choice of the individual remained questionable. Empirical studies of coercive measures have shown their discrimination against marginalised people in particular and with no discernible effect on population control, while more substantive poverty reduction schemes and economic reforms have raised labour productivity and employment opportunities, allowed families to empower women, and reduced fertility rates as rational choices. India’s TFRs have been reducing substantially across most States, even in U.P. and Bihar with the highest TFRs. To hasten the drop to replacement levels of fertility, States should tackle the socio-economic issues confronting India’s largely youthful demography rather than seeking neo-Malthusian approaches on population control.

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