The family planning programme, since its very inception in 1952, has been the responsibility of the Ministry of Health. It is a Centrally-sponsored and financed programme implemented by the States.
It began very modestly indeed, with the creation of a Family- Planning Cell in the Planning and Development Section of the Directorate-General of Health Services in April 1952.
The first Officer on Special Duty to be in charge of the programme was appointed in March 1956; his designation was later changed to Director of Family Planning.
At the State level, Family Planning Officers were appointed, and they were responsible for the actual implementation of the programme. High-level Family Planning boards were set up at the Centre as well as in the States during the Second Five-Year Plan.
In 1966, several important developments concerning the family planning programme took place. A full-fledged Department of Family Planning was established within the Ministry, which was re-designated as the Ministry of Health and Family Planning and a Minister of Cabinet rank was placed in its charge.
A Cabinet Committee of Family Planning, initially headed by the Prime Minister and later by the Finance Minister, was constituted at the Central level. The function of the Cabinet Committee was to give proper direction and policy clearances and to regularly review the progress of the programme.
In addition to the Finance Minister, this Cabinet Committee consisted of the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, the Minister for Food and Agriculture, the Minister for Labour and Employment, The Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and the Minister of Health and Family Planning. Similar committees were constituted at the State level and were headed by the Chief Minister of the State.
The Central Family Planning Council, with the Minister of Health and Family Planning as its Chairman was set up in 1966. The council has a Standing Committee. Similar Councils were set up in the States as well.
These Councils are mainly meant to review the progress of the family planning programme and to make policy decisions.
They consist of experts as well as representatives of the Government, voluntary organisations, industries, etc. At present, the meetings of the Central Council of Health and the Central Council of Family Welfare, as it is now known, are held jointly.
The First United Nations Advisory Mission, which visited India in 1955 to make recommendations for improvement in the family planning programme, had observed: “The Mission feels that the present Directorate for Family Planning in the Ministry of Health is inadequately staffed, is not placed high enough in the administrative hierarchy and needs internal reorganisation.”
In 1966, with the appointment of a Commissioner of Family Planning with the rank of Director-General, this lacuna was filled to a certain extent.
At the State level, the State Family Planning Bureau is headed by the Joint Director, Family Planning and Maternal and Child Health, and an officer of the rank of a Secretary/Deputy Secretary heads the cell in the Secretariat. Each district is entitled to its own Family Planning Bureau with a Class I officer in charge.
The District Bureau has Divisions for administration, education and information, field operation and evaluation: Mobile units for IUD and sterilisation are also attached to the District Bureau.
The headquarters of the rural family planning organisation is the Primary Health Centre, with sub-centres attached to it. For the urban family welfare planning centres, different patterns of staffing are provided, according to the size of the population to be covered.
Each city with a population above 2 lakhs is entitled to its own Family Planning Bureau. All cities with a population of more than 10 lakhs are allowed the pattern of the District Family Planning Bureau.
Different patterns are laid down for the family planning units of public sector undertakings and those of the Ministry of Railways, Posts and Telegraphs Department and the Ministry of Defense, depending on the size of the population to be covered.
In 1977 when the Janata Government came into power, the family planning programme was renamed as the family welfare programme to make it more acceptable and to denote that it had a wider base, so that it could also include various measure of family welfare for the improvement of the quality of human life.
This review of the development of the organisational structure of the family planning programme is indicative to the rapidity with which the programme gained in importance. Another point which emerges in this review is that this programme has always been considered to be the responsibility of the Ministry of Health.
Some critics of the family planning programme look upon this very fact as the reason for its rather poor performance over the years. “As the Health Ministry is one of the weakest and politically unimportant ministries both at the Centre and in the States, family planning is relegated to an unimportant position, in spite of pronouncements to the contrary.”
The solution to this problem may either lie in the setting up of a separate ministry for the implementation of the programme or a new autonomous Government agency like the Family Planning Board of Indonesia.
The first U.N. Advisory Mission carefully considered both these proposals. “It rejected both these proposals because it felt that as long as the most effective methods of contraception required medical supervision and cooperation, and were quite rightly closely identified with maternal and child welfare, family planning should remain the responsibility of the Ministry of Health.”
In recent times, there has been one school of thought who favours the setting up of an Indian Commission on Population “to recommend policies and programmes with respect to all aspects of India’s population.”
The New Delhi Declaration of Parliamentarians issued at the First National Conference of the Indian Association of Parliamentarians for Problems of Population and Development has in May 1981 also recommended, “A National Population Commission should be set up immediately to review implementation of population policies and programmes, report progress and provide concrete suggestions and Parliament.”