Population Policy in India:
Incentives for small families
By P.Sunderarajan

NEW DELHI, FEB. 15, 2000.
The Centre today gave the nod to a new national population policy that seeks to hasten the process of population stabilisation through a series of socio-economic measures. The approval came at a meeting of the Union Cabinet this morning.

The promotional and motivational measures under the policy include linking of the disbursement of the cash awards under the Rural Development Department's maternity benefit scheme to compliance with the ante-natal check-up, institutional delivery by trained birth attendant, registration of birth and BCG immunisation; provision of health insurance scheme for couples below the poverty line, who undergo sterilisation with not more than two living children; and a special reward for those who marry after the legal age of marriage, register their marriage, have the first child after the mother reaches the age of 21, accept the small family norm and
adopt a terminal method after the birth of the second child.

The list of incentives includes strengthening of the facilities for safe abortion, rewards for panchayats and zila parishads for exemplary
performance in universalising the small family norms, achieving reductions in infant mortality and promotion literacy with completion of primary
schooling and provision of creches and child-care centres in rural areas and urban slums to promote participation of women in paid employment. The
policy further envisages stricter enforcement of the Child Marriage Restraint Act and the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Acts. a technology
mission within the Department of Family Welfare to provide attention for accelerating performance in states which currently have below average
socio-demographic indicators.

The policy envisages the setting up of a high-powered `national commission' on population, chaired by the Prime Minister, to monitor and
guide planning and implementation of the policy. The panel would consist of chief ministers of all states and Union Territories as members, besides
Central ministers in charge of the Department of Family Welfare and other concerned Central ministries and departments, and reputed demographers,
public health professionals and the representatives of NGO.

In addition, it envisages setting up of a coordination cell within the Planning Commission for inter-sectoral coordination between ministries as
also creation of state-level commissions on population chaired by the chief ministers.

The Union Health Minister, Mr. N.T.Shanmugam, said the main philosophy behind the policy was that the population control could be better achieved
by improving the lot of particularly those below the poverty line through  greater focus onchild- survival, empowerment of women and increased
participation of men in planned parenthood. The immediate objective was to address the needs for contraception, health-care infrastructure, health-
personnel and integrated service delivery while the medium-term objective would be to bring the total fertility rate to replacement levels by 2010.