The Congress (I) Government that came into power in January 1980 attempted to resurrect the family planning programme, which even today continues to be known as the family welfare programme, with heavy emphasis on the welfare aspects of the programme, specially as it relates to maternal and child health.
Smt. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, repeatedly offered her support to the family welfare programme. The basic strategies adopted with a view to making it a “people’s programme” included the following:
(a) Imparting information and knowledge about the benefits of the small family norm as well as the methods to be adopted, the accent being on motivation leading to voluntary acceptance of one of the many available methods to space and limit the family size.
(b) Provision of services and supplies as close to the doorsteps of the people as feasible by continuous expansion and upgrading of the required facilities.
(c) Improving perceptions, skills and competence of all levels of workers in the health and welfare systems by a process of continuous education and training.
(d) Integration of family welfare programme with health measures, predominantly catering to the vulnerable groups consisting of women and children who constitute 70 per cent of the entire population.
(e) Involvement of the people in all walks of life through greater use of motivational media and inter-personal communication.
(f) Monitoring and evaluation of the programme in a continuous manner to get proper feed-back for better programme performance.
(g) Research into bio-medical aspects to improve existing contraceptive technology and evolve easier, safer and inexpensive contraceptives.
It may be noted that there was nothing new in this plan of strategies, which may be viewed as the position of that Government with respect to family planning.
This plan also reflects the way in which the family planning programme has evolved over the years since its inception in 1952 as included in the First Five-Year Plan.
One striking event in relation to the population problem in general and the family planning programme in particular needs special mention. It may be recalled that during the General Elections to the Parliament in 1977, the whole issue of family planning was highly politicised.
Even if it is accepted that there was some justification for doing so, it cannot be denied that the family planning programme received a setback, from which it is only now slowly recovering.
In the light of these developments, it is important to consider the deliberations of the First Conference of the Indian Association of Parliamentarians for Problems of Population and Development.
Smt. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, in her inaugural address pointed out, “If there is any one issue on which a national consensus is most urgent, surely it is family planning.
In recent years family planning was dragged into political partisan controversy. But let us leave that phase and move forward.”
At this conference, the New Delhi Declaration of Parliamentarians on Population and Development was issued, in which it was stated, “There must be total political commitment to the family planning programme by the representatives of the people at the all levels; the efforts to be made in this direction must be free from any kind of partisan considerations and party politics and should be irrespective of religion, caste and creed.”
It was also recommended, “The election law should be amended suitably to make soliciting of votes of any candidate for Parliament and State Legislatures directly or indirectly, by suggesting opposition I to family planning a corrupt practice.”
In July 1993, the Government of India appointed an Expert Group to prepare a preliminary draft of the National Population Policy. This Expert Group, under the chairmanship of Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, presented its report in May 1994.