The commitment of the Janata Government that came into power in 1977 was firm, as was evident from a statement made by Shri Morarji Desai, the then Prime Minister, at the Conference of Health Ministers on April 28, 1977.
“If the population goes on increasing at the rate it has gone on increasing, all our programmes for giving work and providing means of production with inadequate resources would be futile.
It is, therefore, very vital that we should control the population, and, therefore, population control becomes also a major programme.”
A new National Population Policy was declared on June 29, 1977. In pursuance of the new policy to eliminate coercion, all measures as well as rules and regulations, which had the slightest element of compulsion or coercion, were dropped, and the welfare approach to the problem was increasingly emphasised.
The wider policy of family welfare covered education, health, maternity and child care, family planning and nutrition. It was also pointed out, “The change in the name of the programme from family planning to family welfare is a reflection of the Government’s anxiety to promote, through it, the total welfare of the family and the community,” Many of the other measures outlined in the National
Population Policy declared in 1976 was retained. These included the following: (1) Raising the minimum legal age at marriage for girls to 18 and for boys to 21; (2) Taking the population figure of 1971 till the year 2001, in all cases where population was a factor, as in the allocation of Central assistance to State Plans, devolution of taxes and duties and grants-in-aid; (3) Accepting the principle of linking 8 per cent of the Central assistance to State Plans with their performance and to success in the family welfare programme; (4) Plans to popularise the family welfare programme and use of all media for this purpose.
Unfortunately, the family planning programme received a setback during this period due to the climate of distrust and suspicion in relation to the programme.
In an earlier section it has already been pointed out that the achievements of the programme in terms of the number of new acceptors reached the lowest point during the period immediately following the lifting of the National Emergency.
The slow progress of the family welfare programme was viewed with great anxiety by the then Government of India and detailed review of the progress and discussions on it were held in several top policy making conferences held during the year 1978-79.
These included the following: (1) The Chief Ministers’ Conference, (2) The Governors Conference, (3) Meeting of the National Development Council, (4) Fifth Joint Conference of the Central Council of Health and the Central Family Welfare Council, (5) Sixth Joint Conference of the Central Family Welfare Council of Health and the Central Family Welfare Council.
To foster a healthy competition among the States and the various units participating in the family welfare programme, the scheme of National Awards was revived in 1978- 79.
The Population Research Advisory Committee was constituted to coordinate population research activities in India, as it was recognised that population research could play an increasingly important role in improving programme effectiveness.
Further, a Working Group on Population Policy was constituted by the Planning Commission to suggest a long-term demographic goal for the country. This Working Group submitted its final report in May 1980, in which it was stated, “The Group strongly recommends that the nation commit itself to achieving the long-term goal of NRR of unity by the year 1996 on an average and by the year 2001 for all the States.
This would mean that no state in the country could have an NRR of more than by the year 2001. The transition from the present level of NRR which is estimated to be around 1.67 to 1.00 by 2001, that is, from the present family size of about 4.2 children to 2.3 children per couple, will be greatly facilitated if the anticipated reductions in mortality or in other words, the expected increase in the expectation of life are realised.
This implies a reduction in the death rate from the present level of 14 to about 9 per 1000 of population. It also implies a reduction of infant mortality rate from the present estimated level of above 120 to below 60 per 1000 live births by the year 2001.
Our studies reveal that percentage of eligible couples to be effectively protected by a modern method of family planning should be around 60, if the stipulated NRR of one by 1996 for the country as a whole has to be realised under the mortality assumptions made by the Registrar General.”