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

A+| A| A-

National Population Policy, 2000

As the country gets ready for the 2001 Census of India, the prospect of confronting the new population figures which will reflect the differential growth rates of population among the states has prompted the Vajpayee government to present, at last, the new population policy.

India’s quest for population stabilisation Began in 1951, with the formulation of the First Five-Year Plan. After five decades of planning, including a centrally- sponsored family planning (remained as family welfare) programme, population stabilisation still remains an elusive goal. The National Population Policy announced by N T Shanmugham, union minister of state for health and family welfare on February 15, 2000, states that the long-term objective of the policy is “to achieve a stable population by 2045, at a level consistent with the requirements of sustainable economic growth, social development and environmental protection”. In the long run, population stabilisation will be the culmination of about 100 years’ efforts of a highly bureaucratic programme not withstanding periodic pronouncements by successive governments about the vital need for making family planning “a people’s movement”. The fundamental question is: can the government generate a people’s movement? It should be obvious that it cannot. International donor agencies, disillusioned by the largely unsuccessful implementation of India’s family planning programme are enchanted by NGOs but India’s recent experience shows that most of the NGOs are elitist organisations, far removed from the people: they are basically DONGOs – donor-driven NGOs who will collapse as soon as the foreign money is withdrawn, and GONGOs – government-driven NGOs which are captured by bureaucrats or their wives and quite often by the wives of ministers. These organisations too are far removed from the masses. What should we do then ? If neither the government nor the NGOs can set us on the path of population stabilisation, should we look to other mechanisms like the one suggested by an Expert Group on Population Policy headed by M S Swaminathan, the famous agricultural scientist and environmentalist who, in the report submitted to the prime minister in May 1994, had recommended an independent Population and Social Development Commission which “will function in a manner similar to other commission of Government with executive powers such as the Atomic Energy and Space Commissions”.1 The report also suggested that the proposed commission “will be headed by a full-time chairperson who will be an eminent social worker or a professional respected in the country for commitment to the cause of population stabilisation and social development”. It further stated that the proposed commission “will take over many of the responsibilities now borne by the Department of Family Welfare of the Government of India. The funds available...will be credited to a Population and Social Development Fund.”

The Swaminathan Committee’s report has remained in cold storage since 1994. Successive prime ministers asked the top bureaucrats to examine this report but they were dead against dilution of the bureaucracy inherent in the recommendations. They were willing to accept other recommendations of the report like endorsing the “national socio-demographic goals for the year 2010” but firmly rejected any effort to restructure the department of family welfare or give greater financial autonomy to states to run the 100 per cent centrally-sponsored programme. Successive health and family welfare ministers were too weak to assert themselves or influence the prime minister. In this process of examining the Swaminathan Committee report, the government of India wasted six years, during which period India’s population increased by over 100 million.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here

Back to Top