ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Population : Avoidable Exercise

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The long awaited population policy has been in the making     since the early 1990s. So the policy will very likely be relegated to the bookshelves in parliament house library or wherever it is that dead documents are dispatched to. The question is do we need a population policy at all? The one immediate outcome of the policy has been that the freeze on distribution of seats in the Lok Sabha has been extended to 2026.

At the time the first draft of the population policy was released in 1994 there were many issues which had prompted wide-ranging debate in demographic circles. For instance, there was much excitement about the Tamil Nadu model of achieving demographic change. The Kerala model that scholars pointed to in support of development being the best contraceptive was being superseded by the example of Tamil Nadu which was moving towards demographic transition apparently without the development inputs – women’s education, employment, improved food availability, etc. Today not only Tamil Nadu, but Andhra Pradesh and, according to some scholars, the entire southern region is moving towards a demographic transition, prompted by a range of factors, not necessarily comparable across these states. More recently, the National Family Health Survey’s second round has provided evidence that there has been a remarkable change in important demographic indicators in the last six years in UP. For instance, the average number of children has gone down by 17 per cent in the last six years, or as much as had happened in the preceding 40 years. Contraceptive prevalence has risen from 20 per cent in 1992-93 to 28 per cent. Other related indicators, such as the proportion of women receiving tetanus toxoid and the number of births attended by trained health workers (contributing to a reduction in maternal and infant mortality and morbidity), too indicate a turnaround.

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