POPULATION “EXPLOSION” - A MYTH OF EPIC PROPORTIONS

POPULATION “EXPLOSION” - A MYTH OF EPIC PROPORTIONS

Newsletter May – Aug 2004

The 'population problem’ is a colossal myth in both official and lay circles that is generally not questioned. Yet, statistics amply prove that the overall growth rate of the country is the lowest in the last fifty years. Further, poor distribution of family planning services leaves a significant proportion of the citizens without access to contraceptives. The National Population Policy is broadly in favour of population stabilization in harmony with social and human development, except for one objectionable statement that seriously worries us. In that context, a petition has been submitted to the new government signed by hundreds of concerned groups and individuals, highlighting these concerns. The following is the text of the petition:

To

Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister,

Dr. A. Ramdoss, Minister of Health and Family Welfare,

Sonia Gandhi, Convenor, United Progressive Alliance Government

Please accept our sincerest congratulation for adopting the Common Minimum Programme. It is a very progressive document and we look forward to its successful implementation. However, among its provisions is a line, which, if pursued diligently will surely lead to misfortune for thousands, if not millions, of women. The line is "A sharply targeted population control programme will be launched in the 150-odd high-fertility districts", in the section on women and children.

The 150 odd districts, in which the sharply targeted population control programme will be launched, in all certainty, be districts with poor indicators for literacy (especially female), infant and child mortality, and other human development factors.

Our experience of health care programmes that are obsessed with family planning and targets shows that if such a programme is launched in 150 districts some of the impacts will be as follows:

1. Maternal health services will suffer and millions of women will suffer serious health consequences.

2. Quality of Family Planning services will go down and sterilisation operations will be conducted hurriedly and callously.

3. More women will lose their lives due to poor maternal health services and poor family planning services.

4. Women will be targeted to undergo sterilisation operations.

5. All other health services will suffer since all providers will be busy with the population control programme.

6. There will be increased poverty and indebtedness and people will be forced to go to private health care providers.

In the interest of the health of millions of Indian women, we request you to withdraw this line from the Common Minimum Programme of your Government. Women need affordable, accessible and quality health care services.

Box:

Buying a Womb in Easy instalments

If you are a woman living in Seoni or Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh, you can be a part of a unique venture launched by Hridayesh Gupta of "Small family Inc". Boston-based Gupta pays women Rs. 250 a month for not getting pregnant. They also get increments for delaying pregnancy for a year. And of course, if they get pregnant, the incentive is withdrawn. Traditional midwives (dais) establish whether women are pregnant or not, in a "verification camp”. Only women between 18-28 years of age can get enrolled. If they already have 4 children, they are permanently disqualified Gupta has already spent Rs. 11.47 lakh on this project, which he calls a "business model" of population limitation. So, for not getting pregnant, you can earn more per month than a Panchayat member, who earns only Rs. 150 per month.

Gupta now wants to expand his programme to more areas and hopes to spend Rs. 12 crore. He has sent a proposal to the Ministry of Family Welfare to adopt the "business model".

So, says the "business model", forget about female education, more access to health care services, and increasing male participation in fertility control. All that is required to control a woman’s womb is a bank pass book.