BJP MP pushes Bill, party colleague wants removal of penal clauses; Opp questions

RAJYA SABHA on Friday began discussing a private member Bill moved by a BJP MP seeking to enforce a two-child norm by giving incentives for those adopting the small family practice and penalties for those contravening it. While the BJP members supported the Population Regulation Bill moved by Rakesh Sinha, the Opposition objected to it strongly, arguing that it has been brought with an “ulterior motive”.

Incidentally, BJP MP from Maharashtra Vikas Mahatme, even while supporting the Bill, demanded removal of penal clauses from it arguing that such provisions will lead to increase in female foeticide. Besides, he said, “If we penalise any family after two children, then there is a problem because the child who is born (after that) will always feel that he is an unwanted child. This can be a very dangerous thought for the nation… you cannot punish a child for the mistake of his parents.”

Sinha forcefully argued in favor of regulating population growth, drawing a relationship between population growth and resource consumption. “We have 17 per cent of the world’s population but 2.4 per cent of land and 4 percent of water,” he said.

Sinha said there had been “deliberate attempts” to divert the debate on regulation of population in the past and even given a communal angle. He said the analysis on population growth has even been termed as saffron demography. “I am unable to understand what saffron demography means,” he said.

BJP MP Mahesh Poddar said the Bill should not be viewed from a religious prism.

Arguing that some people see demographic dividend in rising population, Sinha said, “They say 65 per cent of our population is below 35 years of age. They see demographic dividend. What dividend? That our people go to America, Australia and Saudi Arabia and work as labourers….”

Sinha argued that some of the capitalist countries peddle the theory of demographic dividend because they want cheap labour and look for it in “what they call ‘third world’” countries

Opposition members like Congress MP Amee Yajnik questioned the motive of the Bill. Yajnik said the population growth-resource depletion correlation is a good argument but “when a Bill is brought with an ulterior motive, when with some kind of motive, you want to control population, you want certain sections of society, certain people of this world, to stop giving birth… I think it does not stand on its feet.”

While NCP’s Fauzia Khan said the Bill carried the “potential to systematically alter India’s social fabric itself”, RJD’s Manoj Kumar Jha said the government had in an affidavit filed in Supreme Court in December 2020 on a petition seeking implementation of two-child norm said that international experience shows that any coercion is counter-productive.

Muslim League MP Abdul Wahab said the government should educate the present generation to adopt small family norms instead of enforcing it by force. “If this (Bill) is to control Muslims or whoever it is… she (Yajnik) was not telling the ulterior motives openly…”

Congress’s L Hanumanthaiah said there is a “propaganda” that a “particular religion or a community is producing more… That is why this is called saffron thinking.”

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