Notes on the Family Welfare Programme in India

In order to control the rapid growth of population, the policy of family planning was adopted by the Govt. of India in 1952. India is the first country to adopt a deliberate policy measure to control the high birth rate. Though the programme initially was taken up in a modest way, it gathered momentum after the 1961 census. During the First Five Year Plan a sum of Rs.65 Lakhs was earmarked for the purpose and the amount increased to Rs.3 crore during the 2nd plan period. During 3rd plan emphasis was given on mass propaganda and motivation programme in order to make people conscious about the adverse effect of population growth Rs.25 crore were allotted for the purpose during the 3rd plan period. Different methods of contraception were introduced to check the high birth rate and a pill factory was set up in India during 1966 - 69. A “Cafeteria Approach” meaning choose whatever method of contraception you like was introduced by the Health and Family welfare minister Prof. Chandrasekhar. A time bound target oriented approach was adopted to reduce the birth rate from 39 per thousand to 32 per thousand. Actually nothing remarkable could be achieved in this direction. By 1971, our population increased to 548 million.

In 1972, the parliament passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act legalizing abortion on demand. Mass vasectomy camps were started in the country. The Family Planning of Programme was widened to cover nutrition, maternity and child care. In 1976, the Govt. of India announced the National Population Policy. The objective was to reduce the fertility period of reproductive couples. The policy discouraged the child marriages and increased the minimum age of marriage to 18 for girls and 21 for boys. The family planning programme was started on a war-footing during the emergency period (1975 - 77). Compulsory sterilization was introduced and nearly 10 million people were sterilized. Financial initiatives were given to the people to be attracted for sterilization. However, the programme was virtually rejected by the people and its progress received a serious set-back during two years after 1976. The Janata Government in 1977 renamed the programme as Family Welfare Programme and put emphasis on the welfare of the family as a whole. The method of persuasion replaced the earlier method of compulsion in the filed of sterilization. The policy targeted to reduce the birth rate to 30 per thousand by 1979 and 25 per thousand by 1989. However, during the brief tenure of Janata Govt. the policy could not achieve much.

From the Sixth Plan onwards, long term strategy of limiting population growth started in the country. The objective was to reduce the birth rate from 33 to 21 per thousand and mortality from 14 to 9 during the plan period. But the aim of this ambitious plan could not be achieved. Hence the Seventh plan adopted a practical target for the purpose. The plan aimed at protesting 42 percent of families of the reproductive age and reducing the birth rate to 29 per thousand. During the English plan, emphasis was given on decentralization planning to check population growth. The local conditions, regional variations and diversities have to be considered while planning and implementing the family welfare programme. The Ninth Plan aimed at controlling the population growth by 1.6 percent by 2001 and 1.5 by 2011. The plan emphasized to increase the supply of contraceptives to meet the demand and reduce the infant and maternity morbidity and mortality to reduce fertility.