Educating women was the best way to check population growth, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said, adding he was not in favour of bringing in a law for the same.
The Janata Dal (United) chief’s comments are being seen as apparent disapproval of the Uttar Pradesh government’s draft population bill that seeks to discourage couples from having more than two children by making them ineligible for government jobs and various welfare benefits.
“I have nothing to say about what other states plan to do but my conviction, which is backed by experience, has been that things come under control once we take steps to educate the girl child,” Kumar said when his views were sought on the issue on the World Population Day.
Kumar’s JD-U rules Bihar in a coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and is also part of the ruling National Democratic Alliance at the Centre.
Several state governments, especially those ruled by the BJP, have spoke in favour of taking the legislative route to check India’s population, which is expected to take over that of China, the world’s most populous country, by 2027.
“In Bihar, we have seen the fertility rate fall in about a decade, thanks to the fillip given to increased enrolment of girls in schools and incentives for their greater participation in higher learning,” said Kumar. His government’s initiatives like free bicycles and uniforms to school-going girls have received much acclaim.
The BJP-ruled UP recently released a draft population control bill that seeks to bar couples with more than two children from contesting local bodies elections and receiving subsidies, among other things.
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also released the state’s Population Policy 2021-2030 to steady the growing population in the state and reduce maternal and infant mortality in a time-bound manner.
The 40-page policy document says “attempts would be made to ensure there is a population balance among various communities in the state. Extensive campaigns would be run in communities, groups, and geographical areas where fertility rates were higher”.
The move has not gone done well with the opposition. Terming the bill as a part of the BJP’s “election propaganda” ahead of next year’s assembly polls, Samajwadi Party MP from Sambhal Shaqfiqur Rahman Barq said the government should ban marriages if it wants to stabilise rising population.
Congress leader Salman Khurshid said “before making the law, government should tell how many legitimate and illegitimate children its ministers have”.
Leader of Opposition in the assembly Ram Govind Chowdury alleged that the state government had failed on all fronts and was using diversionary tactis. “To divert attention from its failure, it is bringing a bill. Population can be controlled through awareness. People are now themselves aware and considering two-child norm,” Chowdhury told reporters in Ballia.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has objected to the one-child policy norm in the bill, saying it would increase the imbalance between different communities and contract the population as well.
The saffron outfit asked the Yogi Adityanath government to remove “the anomaly” of rewarding or punishing the child, instead of the parents, from the Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilisation and Welfare) Bill, 2021.
Assam, another BJP-ruled state, too, has announced that it would gradually implement a two-child policy for availing benefits under specific schemes funded by the state.
(With inputs from PTI)