Upsurge in the Family Planning Programme in India – Essay

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This sudden upsurge in the family planning programme caused widespread interest all over the world. When the Union Minister for Health and Family Planning was asked in a radio interview about the factors which in his own country had contributed to this success, he replied: “The reason for this mainly is the total commitment and national dedication that has emerged towards family planning, particularly since the Chandigarh session of the AICC.

The Prime Minister laid down family planning as one of the major priority areas. The party fully endorsed this. Soon thereafter, I was able to formulate and announce the National Population Policy.

And from that time onwards, family planning has been converted from a programme of one of the Ministries of the Government of India, which it used to be for the last 20 years, into a national commitment.

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The party is involved both the main party as well as the young wing and in addition to that there has been a tremendous upsurge of interest and acceptance throughout the country.

Therefore, I think, the main thing is that, for the first time since independence, family planning has been placed in the centre of our developmental efforts and is not longer peripheral.”

The “Progress Special” issue of the Centre Calling, an organ of the Family Planning Department of the Government of India, contains “success stories” related by the Chief Ministers of several States.”

Apart from the fact that they underscore the enthusiasm created by the national commitment to family planning at the highest levels, these statements contain references to several special measures undertaken by the various States for an effective implementation of the family planning programme.

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A case in point is the State of Madhya Pradesh. The following special measures were adopted and later identified as leading to the success of the family planning programme: education and motivation of the menfolk; involvement of all departments in the family planning programme with the responsibility of bringing cases for sterilisation assigned to them while the medical services concentrated on providing services; targets were given to school teachers, patwaris, gram sevaks, gram panchayats; directives given to all “eligible” employees of the State Governments to undergo sterilisation by a certain date; special prizes to districts for good performance in family planning; and integration of health and family planning services. The Chief Ministers of several States have reported that similar measures were adopted by them.

Many States introduced a scheme of disincentives to ensure that their employees fell in line. In Himachal Pradesh, those who did not limit their families were deprived of medical benefits, travelling allowance on transfer, maternity leave if women had already two or more children, advances, loans and house allotment facilities.

Fresh entrants were required to give an undertaking that they would not have more than two children. The members of the general public were deprived of fee concessions, scholarships and subsidies if they did not conform to the small family size norm.

In Karnataka, new rules were framed so that only those who limited their families to two children were entitled to certain facilities allotment of houses, sites, sanction of loans and educational concessions.

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The Government of Uttar Pradesh took the palm for its scheme of incentives and disincentives to ensure that the family planning programme, which covered most sections of society, was effectively implemented.

An elaborate set of rules was framed for Government employees and prospective Government employees; members of the general public were also covered under special orders.

For instance, under the Uttar Pradesh Essential Articles and Things (Restriction on Grant or Supply to Unplanned Families) Order, 1976, the following items were linked with acceptance of sterilization.

The issue and supply of rationed articles; licenses and permits under any order issued under any section of the Essential Commodities Act or under Rule 114 of the Defense and Internal Security Rules; license or permit for the allotment of a scooter or motor car from the discriminatory quota of the State Government; and permits for public carriers, auto rickshaws, taxis; a permit for a building under the Uttar Pradesh Buildings Act, 1972, or issued by any Development Authority; allotment on rental basis of a house owned by the State Government or by any Developmental Authority, free medical aid; concession in educational fees, stipends; reservation of seats in medical colleges or other technical institutions; facilities regarding payment of dues of electricity charges in installments.

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Under the Uttar Pradesh Firearms and Immunities (Restriction on Grant of License) Order 1976; “disqualified” persons were not to be granted any license or renewal of an existing license, and the licenses of those who already had them would be cancelled unless the persons got sterilised.

In addition to the special measures adopted by individual States, the system of increased and graded compensations, inversely related to the number of children a person had at the time of sterilisation, also had an important share in boosting up the performance.

In such a system, however, a danger of wrong reporting of the number of living children was inherent. But no attempt was made to either check or stop it in view of the large numbers that were being attracted to family planning because of increased compensations.

Because of the fact that the freedom of the press was curbed, no reports of the excesses committed under the family planning programme could appear in newspapers, journals and periodicals, while those appearing in the foreign press were heavily censored.

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Occasionally, a report would slip through the foreign press and reach at least a selected few. People, published by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, writing during that period, said: “There were allegations that unscrupulous motivators, lured by the prospect of financial rewards, displayed little discrimination in dragging healthy adolescents and impotent old men to the operating table. Several deaths were blamed on in sanitary camp arrangements.”

Writing in April 1977, after the lifting of the emergency, a journalist reports: “Then suddenly the near-butchery began. The handling of the programme went from one extreme apathy, niggardliness, bad planning, poor organisation and general maladministration to the other coercion, quotas, bureaucratic over-zealousness, fear and brutality.

The national population policy (NPP) promulgated a year ago, seemed (and seems still to many people), despite the many fine sentiments it expressed, to have been framed only to legitimise the assault on human dignity that was euphemistically called sterilisation campaign.”

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