It does not come as a surprise to anyone when I say that India has been dealing with the problem of over-population for a long time. Due to this overpopulation, resources get dwindled, lack employment opportunities, and destruction the environment.
To tackle such situation, state governments like that of Assam decided to bring the two-child policy in 2017 where it has been stated that if a family has more than two children after 2021, then the family will lose the opportunity of being employed in any government job and would be eliminated from contesting local body elections and panchayat elections. Efforts were made to bring in a population control bill even at the Central Government level.
A population control bill was tabled in Rajya Sabha and implemented the two-child policy all over the country. It was held that if someone has more than two kids, then they will not be employed in government jobs, will fail to receive all forms of government schemes, and some proposed that they should be stripped off of their voting rights as well. Is this a good process to control over-population?
Child Policy in India
First of all, it should be kept in mind that Assam is not the only state to implement such a law. In India, so far, 12 states have introduced the two-child policy already. These include:
Andhra Pradesh (1994)
Himachal Pradesh (2000)
Madhya Pradesh (2000)
Bihar (2007) and
A five-state study by the former Indian Administrative Service officer Nirmala Buch showed that the states where the two-child policy was prevalent showed a rise in sex-selective and unsafe abortions, with men forcing their wives to run for the local body elections and families giving up their children for adoption to avoid being eliminated from the polls.
The policy to control the expansion of population dates back to as early as 1951. Mahatma Gandhi opposed the idea of contraception and supported the idea of abstinence to control population growth. Another historical track record of the policy was during the time of emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975 that the concept of the two-child policy got the real push. This was also the time when China introduced the one-child policy. There was forced sterilization under the Indira Gandhi government. This means that people, especially the poor, were forced to get sterilized, and within a period of 2 years, almost 11 million people were sterilized. This was done with the idea that forced sterilization would lead to a reduction in population.
However, if we look at the population growth charts, we will notice that it made no difference. In fact, despite the forceful sterilization of a section of the population, the population continued to grow at the same rate as it was before.
Two-Child Policy in States
Attempts of the policy have been implemented at a state level. In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the 1994 Panchayati Raj Act disqualified the person with more than two children from contesting elections. However, those families who already had three children before the Act was implemented were allowed to contest the polls. In Maharashtra, families with more than two children were barred from contesting the gram panchayats and municipal elections.
The Maharashtra Civil Services Rules of 2005 disqualified a person having more than two children from holding any post in the state government. The Women were not allowed Public Distribution System benefits. Rajasthan introduced similar rules like Assam by stating that candidates with more than two children were disqualified from government jobs. In Gujarat, the Local Authorities Act was amended in 2005 to disqualify anyone from contesting elections to panchayats and municipal corporations. Even though Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh introduced the two-child policy in 2001 for government jobs and local body elections, in 2005, the same was discontinued for elections after receiving several complaints.
In 2020, the National Volunteer Organization leader Mohan Bhagwat stated that the two-child policy would be outdone of the organization’s primary goals. Bhagwat’s support made the policy controversial, with some proposing that the entire policy was an attempt to limit the growth of the world Muslim population in India. While there are no national policies in India as of yet, there are local laws. Under the policy, people running for the panchayat elections will be disqualified if they do not respect the two-child policy.
Some local governments have gone a step further by implementing penalties to the citizens for having more than two kids. They would also be denied state-provided healthcare for the mother and the children, including nutritional supplements for pregnant women. As for the fathers, punishments include fines and jail time and restrictions on government employment and promotions.
Is there a need for the two-child policy in the country?
The laws were questioned from the beginning. People were quick to point out that India is a country that relies on the youth with the booming technology industry. There is an underlying fear that restrictions on having children will lead to a shortage of literate young people that the country needs to carry on the technical revolution. Moreover, this will lead to a gender imbalance as there is a preference for boy child over girls. Most importantly, there is a decline in India’s birthrate.
While in 2000, the fertility rate was as high as 3.3 for every woman, the number has declined to 2.1 children per woman. India’s economy has also grown to 6% per year, which is more than enough to support the population growth. The two-child policy also violates women’s rights as it encourages abortion and infanticide of females. It also creates incentives for men to divorce their wives to run political office.
Inspired by China’s one-child policy, many local governments have created laws that bring upon punishments for having more than two children. These laws have been criticized in the country as well as abroad. Even though it is considered less severe than China’s policy, the two-child policy laws in considered problematic and discriminatory in India.