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

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The Dangerous Fallacies of Populationism

Pandemic as Population Check?

As India undergoes massive societal transformations due to the pandemic, a potential dangerous by-product could be a worrying consensus on the need for population control. Dressed as a positive population check to “cure” poverty, such a turn in policy can enable rushed and knee-jerk public opinion that proves fatal for historically persecuted populations. The dangers of support for coercive population control policies in the garb of economic recovery are examined.

In 1978, a film titled Nasbandi was released in Bombay (now, Mumbai). It was a commercial venture, made by prominent film actor, writer, and comedian I S Johar. The film begins with a lament for M K Gandhi and a song that remembers the ahimsa that Gandhi practised, contrasting his struggle with the current times. The film sets out to be a commentary on the political scenario of 1978. The song has lyrics like apni satta rakhne ko jo chhine janata ke adhikar (those who are keeping their power by restraining peoples’ freedom). A montage of footage of the Indian independence struggle seamlessly merges with shots of people protesting the Emergency. The song goes on to condemn the censorship of the press and affirms the right to criticise the government.

The song sequence shows how men were being dragged to mobile camps to get forcibly vasectomised. A man is dragged to a hospital bed by people dres­sed in white hospital robes. Another man dressed in a surgical cape forces him onto the bed while a nurse in white holds a plate full of medical instruments. The lyrics of the song that accompanies this sequence states, Nasbandi ke naam pe hue zulm wo dukhi aur deeno par. Lagata tha latka ho jaise prajatantra sangeeno par (Crimes were committed on the poor and needy in the name of vasectomies. It felt as if democracy was hanging by a bare thread). This sequence was immediately followed by the Turkman Gate incident where the government ran bulldozers over settlements deemed “illegal” in what was called a city beautification drive, led by Lieutenant Governor Jagmohan. The song ends with the hope that Jayaprakash Narayan, like his name, would be the light in these troubling times, and with a warning that whichever regime rules ruthlessly will fall.

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Updated On : 12th Apr, 2021

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