New Delhi, October 30
Mid UN projections of the world’s seven billionth baby to be born in India on Monday, demographers today struck a note of caution, asking the government to reposition family welfare efforts.
Ashish Bose, member, National Population Commission chaired by the PM, today asked the Government to wind up its family welfare department and divert funds to education and skill development of the existing population. Half of our people are below 25 years; 65 pc are below 35 years. “As such, the department is doing nothing,” he said, adding that even the Commission last met two years ago, indicating a lack of commitment on the front.
S.C. Gulati, member, Government’s technical working group on population, said, “China followed one child norm and reduced the population growth rate to 0.6 pc”.
Despite crores going into the National Rural Health Mission launched in 2005, the target of reducing Total Fertility Rate to 2.1 by 2012 looks unattainable. India had however recorded a decadal population growth of 17.64 per cent in 2011 Census, the lowest in 90 years.
At the current rate of decline, it will take Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh 18 to 45 years to achieve a TFR of 2.1. The high TFR states (with TFR over 3) also have over 40 per cent of our population, adding to pressures on resources like food and land.
“Education and provision of reproductive health services and nutrition were responsible for achieving the TFR of 2.1 in Kerala in 1988 and in Tamil Nadu in 1993,” Health Ministry officials told The Tribune. At present, India has a TFR (the average number of children expected to be born per woman during her entire span of reproductive period) of 2.6, ranging between 1.7 per cent in Kerala and 3.9 per cent in Bihar.
Demographers agree that India has not done well on the family planning front. Even today the unmet need for contraception is a whopping 27 per cent and 20 per cent is unwanted fertility. “It only means you are unable to provide contraceptives even to those who need them. Your whole programme focuses on sterilisations and not on condoms, intra uterine devices and oral pills, which help space children. The Government must bring in injectibles, and must counsel couples and tell that every contraception comes with some side effects; to manage these effects the health system needs to be equipped,” said Poonam Muttreja, head, Population Foundation of India.