Thursday, August 5, 2010

Karan’s Kani on population

Neither he is a jani (intelligence):

  • I will not go into the unhappy history of the population and family planning programme since I introduced the National Population Policy in Parliament in 1976. One of the great tragedies of the Emergency was the fact that the family planning programme got totally derailed. As a result of the debacle of 1977 the whole issue became politically radioactive, the name of the ministry itself was changed from “Family Planning” to “Family Welfare”, and “population” seems to have disappeared from the lexicon of political leaders across party lines. The word was not even mentioned in the last President’s Address, or by the prime minister when he replied to the debate. It is as if we have buried this factor so deep in our subconscious that we are unable to bring it out into the open and deal with it purposefully and effectively.
  • I was astounded some months ago when I mentioned this to a senior political leader and he replied that I should not bring this matter up as it would upset women’s organisations. In fact, it is women who have to bear the major brunt of unplanned population growth, including physically during childbirth where maternal and post-natal mortality is still unacceptably high — in rural areas particularly, where proper maternal facilities are few and far between. Indeed I would expect women’s organisations to be in the forefront of demanding a clear-cut population policy to ensure that contraceptive facilities become available to every woman in India and her reproductive rights safeguarded.
  • A theory that is fashionable in some academic circles is what is known as the “demographic dividend”. The argument is that with the population in the West declining, and India and China growing rapidly, one day through sheer demography we will dominate the world. I do not accept this; we are still producing children who are malnourished, ill-educated and, therefore, unable to really contribute towards building a strong and vibrant nation. Certainly our young people are our hope for the future, but unless we are able to ensure at least the minimum inputs necessary during pregnancy and early childhood for the full development of body and mind, we are doing them a great injustice. A vast army of unemployed and unemployable young people will hardly be an asset for the nation.

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