Top Indian Doctor Wants to Follow Chinese into One-Child Mania

Steven Mosher
By Joseph A. D'Agostino
PRI Weekly Briefing
20 May 2005
Vol. 7 / No. 19
Reproduced with Permission

Despite the massive and ongoing drop in India's birthrate, Indian Medical Association President Dr. Sudipto Roy called for his country to adopt a Chinese-style coercive one-child policy. The IMA had just passed a resolution urging Indians to have, voluntarily, only one child per family. That was not good enough for Roy, who called for the one-child norm to be enacted into law. According to a Press Trust of India (PTI) story April 17, Roy said, "But a high-level delegation of the IMA recently visited China and was impressed by the way the country has managed its population growth so effectively. The IMA strongly feels that India has no option but to resort to a one-child norm statutorily to ensure that it does not move towards total anarchy."

Though Roy suggested that the IMA itself was going to call for statutes to enforce a one-child policy, the Times of India reported April 24 that IMA Secretary-General Vinay Aggarwal disavowed any such plan. Indian health minister P K Hota said, "We are not in favor of any coercive methods. We would rather give options to couples. What's required is quality health service."

India's population control program has a long history of coercion, and in some Indian states, the coercion is official: "Gujarat, Rajasthan, Hary-ana, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and MP [Madhya Pradesh] have debarred those with more than two children from holding a panchayat [local government] post," reports the Times. "Such clauses also cover municipalities and agricultural produce committees. They even debar people from anti-poverty programs, loans, subsidies or government jobs. A Maharashtra bill also proposes to bar farmers with more than two children from getting irrigation benefits. Andhra Pradesh's population policy recommends that education facilities be withheld from the third child onward." Needless to say, unofficial coercion is far from unknown in India.

As Roy proposes adopting a Draconian, Brave New World method for forcing Indians to have fewer children, Indians are already having fewer children. According to the United Nations Population Division, India's total fertility rate (TFR, which is the average number of children per woman in her lifetime) has dropped from 4.8 in 1980 to 3.1 today, and is projected to hit the replacement level of 2.1 by 2025, and then will continue downward. There's good reason to believe that India will reach a 2.1 fertility rate well before 2025, anyway.

Roy wants India to hit 2.1 in just five years, by 2010. And that's the goal of the Indian government, though it disavows coercive methods. "The National Population Policy 2000 (NPP 2000) affirms the commitment of government towards voluntary and informed choice and consent of citizens while availing of reproductive health care services, and continuation of the target-free approach in administering family planning services," says India's National Commission on Population. "The NPP 2000 provides a policy framework for advancing goals and prioritizing strategies during the next decade, to meet the reproductive and child health needs of the people of India, and to achieve net replacement levels (TFR) by 2010." Notes the commission, "In 1952, India was the first country in the world to launch a national program, emphasizing family planning to the extent necessary for reducing birth rates 'to stabilize the population at a level consistent with the requirement of national economy.'"

The fruits of India's population control so far should give Roy pause. The proportion of India's population 65 or over will go from 5% today to 15% by 2050. The imbalance between boys and girls in India is increasing as Indian couples abort female infants in the womb in order to have more desirable boys without going over their two-child quota. Though sex-selective abortion is illegal in India, it's rarely prosecuted and widely acknowledged to be prevalent. Roy's prescription will, of course, make the problem even worse just as China has announced efforts to combat her own massive gender imbalance, caused by her own population control program. India's sex ratio has gone from 962 girls per 1,000 boys in 1981, to 945 girls per 1,000 boys in 1991, and 927 girls per 1,000 boys in 2001.

As India's economy grows rapidly and demand for labor increases, the IMA is pushing hard for fewer of everybody. "India's current contraceptive prevalence rate is merely 48.2%," complains its website. "Meeting the unmet needs of reproductive health services is the key issue." It's already committed to a voluntary one-child policy. Hopefully, it won't go further.