UP Population Control Bill: A Campaign Tool For The 2022 Assembly Election

UP Population Control Bill: A Campaign Tool For The 2022 Assembly Election UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during the launch of a new population policy on World Population Day in Lucknow. (PTI Photo)

The Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission, possibly on the asking of the Yogi Adityanath government, has sought comments by the public to the Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilisation and Welfare) Bill, 2021.

The draft bill proposes to incentivise the two-child limit while also severely penalising anyone having more than two children in the future.

If the draft becomes the law, violators of the two-child policy will be debarred from contesting local body elections, applying for government jobs, receiving any government subsidy, etc.

As many as 12 states already have laws or rules to ensure two-child norm. These include Rajasthan, where since 1992, candidates who have more than two children are not eligible for appointment in the government or contest election for the post of panch or a member of a panchayati raj institution.

Odisha too bars those with more than two children from contesting local body elections.

The same is followed in several other states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Assam.

But the UP proposal is clearly aimed at the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, which the ruling BJP, under fire for its lacklustre performance on various fronts, hopes to win through such polarising issues.

But it has already run into rough weather.

Apart from opposition leaders, key NDA ally and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar  as well as Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) affiliates like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) have also come out against the draft law. 

Without wasting much time, at least two MPs – BJP’s Lok Sabha MP from Gorakhpur Ravi Kishan – he, incidentally, is father of four children – and nominated Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha, who is close to the RSS, let it out that they plan to introduce a separate private member’s bill in the forthcoming Monsoon Session of Parliament to provide for a law to disincentivise couples having more than two children, by making them ineligible for government jobs and government subsidies. 

In this din, what nobody has done is to connect the dots as to why, apart from the clear purpose to polarise for the purpose of votes, what is the real trigger behind the sudden revival of the population control demand.

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More importantly, will it actually become a reality?

Let me first take a detour: unpopular this may sound, but India does need to control its population. Why, shouldn’t you ask, do we need to bring more children into the world when our leadership is destroying the employment sector? Instead of not adding new jobs – something that is happening in many economies worldwide, we are actually killing  – or should one say, wiping out – jobs.

According to data published by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), India lost a “massive 19.6 million jobs” when compared to the pre-Covid March 2020.

And guess which section of our population suffered more job losses during the first wave of the ongoing Covid pandemic? Women, especially urban women. According to the CMIE data, urban women, who account for about three per cent of total employment, accounted for 39% of total job losses. 

The second wave hit urban men more than the women.

So, let’s punish the yet-to-be-conceived child for the failures of our political and administrative class. Passing the buck was never done in such a smart fashion. Job losses? Don’t worry, Let’s not allow people to have babies.

But, coming back to the issue of population control and incentivising or disincentivising the number of children a couple has, the attempt by some MPs to get Parliament to legislate on the issue is nothing new.

In its report, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution headed by former Chief Justice of India MN Venkatachaliah recommended that there should be a clause in the Constitution under the Directive Principles of State Policy to ensure that every state endeavours “to secure control of population by means of education and implementation of small family norms.”

There was, however, no mention of incentivising or disincetivising the two-child policy.

As for legislating on the subject, as many as 35 Private Member’s Bills have been introduced in Parliament since Independence to incentivise two-child policy.

Here’s a factoid: Since Independence, only 14 Private Member’s Bills have been passed in Parliament. Guess how many of these bills were passed in the last 50 years? None. A vast majority of these bills don’t even clear the introduction stage and get lost during balloting.

While, in UP, with its brute legislative majority, the Yogi government may get the law passed, it will be difficult in the Parliament. 

Maneesh Chhibber is a Consulting Editor with India Ahead News. The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author.

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