March 1, 2024

India’s head doctor backs coercive population control

India's head doctor backs coercive population control

India needs a coercive one-child policy like China’s, says the president of the Indian Medical Association, Sudipto Roy. His controversial proposal was quickly disavowed by India’s most senior health bureaucrat, P.K. Hota, who says that the federal government does not favour coercion — although it does promote one-child families.

Dr Roy’s statement will hearten several states which are already using socio-economic tools to curb population growth. Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh debar couples with three or more children from holding a panchayat post and from anti-poverty programs, loans, subsidies or government jobs. A Maharashtra bill currently proposes to bar farmers with more than two from getting irrigation benefits. Andhra Pradesh’s population policy recommends that education facilities be withheld from the third child onward.

Dr Roy told The Lancet that several IMA members had recently gone to China. They were very impressed by China’s achievements in slowing population growth, and expressed deep concern about our population explosion. They felt only strict measures would curb the population boom in India.

His ideas were not welcomed by demographers. India’s most prominent demographer, Ashish Bose, actually believes that coercive population programs during the 1975-76 Emergency helped to cause population growth by destabilising the sex ratio. “We are losing out because of the lack of a lifecycle or holistic approach. In a democracy when people want employment, drinking water, and literacy, one cannot distribute contraceptives and ask them to solve the population first.”