Overview of National Population Polices in India

Since the middle of the 20th century, developing countries like India have been facing the problem of unsustainable population growth that had placed a lot of pressure on their development pattern and prosperity. In this article we will see in detail the population policy of India before and after independence.

Before Independence

Radha Kamal Mukherjee Committee, 1940

In 1940, the Indian National Congress had appointed a committee on population under the leadership of renowned social scientist Radha Kamal Mukherjee to come up with suggestions to arrest increasing population of the country. As a matter of fact, India’s population started growing rapidly after 1921.

The committee after deliberations suggested that population can controlled by placing emphasis on self control; creating awareness about the cheap and safe methods of birth control; opening birth control clinics; increasing the age of marriage; discouraging polygamy etc.

Bhore Committee, 1943

Government of India in 1943 appointed a Health Survey and Development committee under the chairmanship of Sir Joseph Bhore. This committee had suggested ‘deliberate limitation of family’ approach as a way for controlling population, which cannot be achieved through self control ‘to any material extent’.

After independence

In 1951, India became the first among the developing countries to come up with a state sponsored family planning programme. The Planning Commission which was set up in 1950 was given the task to decide upon the contours of the family planning programme.

In 1952, a population policy committee was constituted. This committee had recommended setting up of a Family Planning Research and Programmes Committee. But the policies framed in 1951-52 were ad-hoc in nature and was primarily based on self-control. So it was not successful.

Subsequently, in 1956, a Central Family Planning Board was established. This board focussed much on sterilization. However, until 1960s a concrete policy on population control was not adopted and the government was vacillating as to what would be the best approach for controlling the population of the country.

First Five Year Plan (1951-56)

The following were stipulated by the first five year plan for population control:

  • To collect information about accurate factors that were contributing to the rapid growth of population.
  • Work out suitable techniques of family planning and chalk out appropriate strategies to create awareness about these strategies among people.
  • Make public health agencies to advise people on family planning as an integral part of their service.
Second Five Year Plan (1956-61)
  • In the second plan, the number of family planning clinics was increased significantly. But since these clinics were largely set up in urban areas, it did not attract many clients.

Until the fifth Five Year Plan, the planning was mostly concerned with ‘birth control’ and ‘family planning’.

Fifth Five Year Plan (1974-1979)
  • In the fifth five year plan, ‘maternal and child health and nutrition services’ were included as a part of the population control programme.
National Population Policy 1976 and 1977

In 1976, the government of India came up with its first National Population policy. The policy came up with a number of measures to arrest the population growth.

Some of the measures are:

  • Increasing the minimum legal age of marriage for girls and boys to 18 and 21 respectively.
  • Monetary incentives for birth control.
  • Improving the literacy levels of females both through the formal and non-formal channels.
  • Population was made as a factor for sharing central resources with that of the states. Linking 8% of the central assistance to the State Plans by weighing the performance of the states in the family welfare programmes.
  • Popularise family welfare programmes by using all forms of media.
  • Inculcating population education into the formal education system.

The National Population Policy, 1976 was completely different from the earlier policies. It was hitherto believed that development and education would themselves restrict the rate of population growth, while the government’s own programme was restricted to family planning, by way of motivating people to accept family planning and providing clinical facilities and other services to its acceptors. But the 1976 policy noted that – To wait for education and economic development to bring out a drop in fertility is not a practical solution. The very increase in population makes economic development slow and more difficult to achieve. The time factor is so pressing, and the population growth so formidable, that we have to get out of the vicious circle through a direct assault upon this problem as a national commitment.”

During the Emergency period (1975-77), coercion and pressure were used in implementing the family planning programme. The Central assistance of 8 per cent was linked with the family planning performance. For the first time the Union government allowed some states to initiate legislation for compulsory sterilisation. The policies, however, discredited the entire family planning programme, and the experiment of the government to implement the so-called bold measures for lowering the birth rate in a relatively short period ended in a fiasco.

In 1977, the new government ruled out the use of force and coercion, and the family planning programme was renamed as the ‘family welfare programme’.

National Population Policy, 2000 (NPP-2000)

In February 2000, the government of India came up with the second National Policy on Population. For the first time since independence, this document comprehensively addressed the problem of population growth in integration with issues such as child survival, maternal health, women empowerment and contraception.  The immediate objective of the policy is to offer service delivery in integrated approach to improve reproductive health and child care. The mid-term objective of the policy was to maintain a total fertility rate (TFR) as 2.1 children per women as it was considered as the replacement level. The long term objective of the policy is to achieve population stabilization by the year 2045.

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