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Citing the effect of India’s growing population on its limited natural resources, Senior Advocate and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi is planning to introduce a legislation to foster a two-child policy for the country. (Population Control Bill, 2020).
Singhvi had initially announced his plan to introduce the Population Control Bill during last year’s winter session of Parliament. The Bill is now going to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha during the current session.
Apart from bestowing benefits upon couples who have not more than two children, the Bill also envisions disadvantages for those who do not adhere to the proposed two-child policy.
At the outset, it is made clear that the proposed legislation shall be applicable only to married couples, where the boy is not less than twenty-one years of age and the girl is not less than eighteen years of age.
Section 4 of the Bill tasks the Central government with ensuring that contraceptives are available at reasonable rates across the country. In this regard, the Bill’s Statement of Objects and Reasons states:
“It is vital for us to realize that population control and enforcement of two child norms for Central Government employees are immediate measures, however, steps such as providing contraceptives and encouraging family planning can possibly play a stronger role in decreasing the population growth rate in the long run.”
The Bill also calls for setting up of District Population Stabilisation Committees in hundred districts with the highest recorded population growth rates. Section 5(3) of the Bill states,
“The Committee shall take steps to encourage the use of contraceptives and control the population growth rate in their concerned district in such manner as may be prescribed.”
Singhvi’s private member bill also calls for benefits to be granted to those couples who have one child and voluntarily undergo sterilisation. Section 6 reads:
“If both the husband and the wife in the case of a married couple, who have only one child, voluntarily undergo sterilisation/ operation, the appropriate Government shall provide them with the following benefits, namely:- (a) preference to the single child for admission in institutes of Higher Education; (b) preference for selection to the single child in Government jobs; (c) such other benefits that may be prescribed by the appropriate Government.”
Population Control Bill, 2019 to be introduced by AM Singhvi
Such couples who are living below the poverty line shall be eligible for a one-time lump sum of Rs. 60,000 if their single child is a boy, and Rs. 1 lakh if the single child is a girl.
Section 8 of the Bill lists out the disadvantages that married couples who have more than two children would face. These include being debarred from:
(a) contesting in Lok Sabha, State Legislature, and Panchayat elections;
(b) getting elected to the Rajya Sabha, the State Legislature, and similar elective bodies;
(c) getting promotion in government services;(d) applying to ‘Group A’ jobs under the Central and State Governments;
(e) receiving any kind of Government subsidy, in case the married couple falls in the Above Poverty Line category.
Sections 12 and 13 make it compulsory for employees of the Central government to follow the two-child policy. Section 12 states:
“After one year from the commencement of this Act, all employees of the Central Government shall submit an undertaking in writing to the respective appointing authority after one year of commencement of this Act that they shall not procreate more than two children: Provided that the employees who already have more than two children at the commencement of the Act shall submit an undertaking that they shall not procreate any more children.”
Population Control Bill, 2019
As regards recruitment, the Centre will be required to give preference to candidates having two or less than two living children.
Further, it is provided that any Central government employee found to have violated provision of the Bill would be liable for dismissal from service.
The Bill also calls for the introduction of a compulsory subject relating to population control in all senior secondary schools, in states where the average fertility rate is more than the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.
A National Population Stabilization Fund is required to be set up by the Central government. The Fund shall be distributed such that states with higher fertility rate shall contribute in higher proportion compared to the states with lower fertility rate. Further,
“The money collected under the Fund shall be redistributed to the States and Union Territories that have implemented reforms to control population and have been able to significantly reduce their population growth rate, in such manner as may be prescribed.”
Explaining the rationale behind the two-child policy, the Statements and Objects of Singhvi’s Bill reads:
“Given the array of socio-economic issues arising as a result of overpopulation, it is important that India as a country starts focusing on steps to decrease population rather than just stabilising it.
Additionally, the population growth is very uneven across the country. While some states have successfully been able to stabilize their population, northern states have witnessed and continue to witness high population growth. It is essential to focus on specific districts with high population growth rates to tackle the problem effectively.”
A similar Bill calling for a two-child policy was moved in the Rajya Sabha by Shiv Sena Member of Parliament Anil Desai last month.
Desai's Bill calls for measures to discourage people from having more than two children, by withdrawing tax concessions, imposing heavy taxes, and by making other punitive provisions for violations.