A review of the eight development plans of the country indicates that family planning as a measure of population control has been given a high priority in each plan.
The financial allocations for the family planning programme in each successive Plan are also indicative of the growing importance accorded to the programme. Beginning with the First Five-Year Plan (1951-1956), the population issue has engaged the attention of the Planning Commission.
The Draft Outline of the First Plan, published in July 1951, contained a section on “Population Pressure: Its Bearing on Development,” which recognised that India had a population problem.
“The increasing pressure of population on natural resources (which must inevitably be limited) retards economic progress and limits seriously the rate of extension of social services, so essential to civilised existence.
A population policy is therefore, essential to planning.” The final version of the First Plan reiterated: “The pressure of population in India is already so high that a reduction in the rat£ of growth must be regarded as a major desideratum.”
The Second Five-Year Plan (1956-1961) pointed out that the rate of population increase was one of the key factors in development and underscored the fact that “a high rate of population growth is bound to affect adversely the rate of economic advance and living standards per capita.
Given the overall shortage of land and or capital equipment relative to population as in India, the conclusion is inescapable that an effective curb on population growth is an important condition for rapid improvements in income and in levels of living.”
It is important to note that the Planning Commission has never considered a population control programme as an alternative to socio-economic development.
While recognising that with improved public health programmes and lower death rates, the population pressure was likely to increase, it accepted the need for curbing the birth rates.
“This highlights the need for a large and active programme aimed at restraining population growth, even as it reinforces the case for a massive developmental effort.”
The Third Five-Year Plan (1961-1966), while considering population control in the context of long-term development, stated: “The objective of stabilising the growth of population over a reasonable period must therefore be at the very centre of planned development.”
The Fourth Five-Year Plan (1969-1974) viewed population not only from the point of view of economic development, but also from that of social change.
“Under Indian conditions, the quest for equality and dignity of man requires as its basis both a high rate of economic growth and a low rate of population increase.
Even far- reaching changes in social and economic fields will not lead to a better life unless population growth is controlled. The limitation of family is an essential and inescapable ingredient of development.” 14
The Draft Fifth Five-Year Plan (1974-1979) included family planning in the context of the National Minimum Needs Programme. It accorded d a high priority to population control, and based the demographic projections for the Plan period on certain assumptions regarding a reduced growth rate, a birth rate declining much faster than the death rate and an effective family planning programme.
It concluded: “if family planning is less of a success than assumed above, the total increase in population would be even larger. It is of the utmost importance that family planning must achieve at least that much success as has been assumed for the above projections. Given the needed effort, it is an attainable target.”
The final version of the Fifth Plan was published only in 1976, and it incorporated the National Population Policy announced in April 1976.
It reiterated: “The policy envisages a series of fundamental measures, including rising the age of marriage, female education, spread of population values and the small family norm, strengthening of research in reproductive biology and contraception, incentives for individuals, groups and communities and permitting State Legislatures to enact legislation for compulsory sterilisation.”
The Fifth Plan also laid down targets. “A target for a birth rate of 25 per thousand and a population growth rate of 14 per cent by the end of the Sixth Plan period is accepted and these targets are expected to be reached.”
The Government that was voted into power in March 1977 made it explicitly clear that it was firmly committed to the programme of population in the programme did not arise. Some of the measures announced in the National Population Policy in 1976, especially those relating to compulsion, were dropped, while some others were retained.
The Government that came in power was also committed to the programme of population control and also ruled out any element of compulsion in the programme.
The Sixth Five-Year Plan (1980-1985) earmarked Rs. 10,100 million for the family planning programme. The long-term demographic goal recommended by the Working Group on Population Policy appointed by the Planning Commission was approved by the National Development Council.
It involves reducing the net reproduction rate (NRR) to one by 1996 for the country as a whole and by 2001 in the states. The implications of this long-term demographic goal are as follows:
(i) The average size of the family would be reduced from 4.2 children to 2.3 children.
(ii) The birth rate per thousand populations would be reduced from the level of 33 in 1978 to 21.
(iii) The death rate per thousand populations would be reduced from about 14 in 1978 to 9 and the infant mortality rate would be reduced from 129 to 60 or less.
(iv) As against 22 per cent of the eligible couples protected with family planning, 60 per cent would be protected.
(v) The population of India will be around 900 million by the turn of the century and will stabilise at 1,200 million by the year 2050 A.D.”
In the Seventh Five-Year Plan (1985-90), the outlay for the family welfare programme was Rs. 3,256 crores.
It was pointed out that in view of the progress made in the Sixth Plan, the goal of reaching a net reproduction rate of unity could be reached only by 2006-2011, instead of reaching it by the year 2000 A.D. as envisaged in the Sixth Five-Year Plan. The following goals for the year 1990 were set:
(i) Effective couple protection rate: 42 per cent
(ii) Crude birth rate: 29.1
(iii) Crude death rate: 10.4
(iv) Infant mortality rate: 90.0
In order to reach an effective couple protection rate of 42 per cent, 31 million sterilisations, 21.25 million IUD insertions would have had to be performed by 1990 and during the terminal year of the Seventh Plan 14.5 million users of conventional contraceptives/ oral contraceptives would have had to be enlisted. The targets to be reached with regard to different methods in the Seventh Plan are given in Table 14.2.
In the Eighth Plan (1992-97), the total outlay for the Family Welfare Programme was Rs. 6500=00 crores. Keeping in view the level of achievement, the long-term demographic goals for the country have been revised.
It has been stated in the Eighth Five Year Document that the net reproduction rate of one would now be achievable only in the period 2011-16 A.D. and not by the year 20OO A.D., as envisaged in the National Health Policy declared in 1983.
Accordingly, the goals of the crude birth rate, crude death rate and natural population growth rate to be achieved by the end of the Eighth Plan Period (i.e., 1997) were also revised.
The revised goals to be achieved by 1997 and 2000 A.D. respectively are as follows: crude birth rate: 26 and 21; crude death rate: 9 and 9; The goal for the effective couple protection rate by 1997 was 56 per cent and by the end of 2000 A.D. it continued to be 60 per cent.
The latest report of the Technical Group on Population Projections constituted by the Planning Commission has estimated that the replacement level of NRR-1 is achievable by 2026 A.D. and beyond.