India, being a developing country, is still battling several problems that maim the country in different ways. One such problem is the growth and extent of the population, and the country’s failure to curb it. With a staggering population of 136 crore people (as of 2019), India is the second-most populous country in the world, only behind China.
To lay down clear guidelines and principles for battling the menace of increasing population, the government formed an expert group, which drafted and submitted a policy named the ‘National Population Policy’ (hereinafter referred to as ‘the NPP’). The NPP has a short-term objective, a medium-term objective (ensuring that the fertility rate is of such nature that one generation automatically gets replaced by another), and a long-term objective (ensuring a stable population for sustainable economic growth, social development, and environmental protection). However, the NPP cannot tackle population growth on its own.
THE UTTAR PRADESH POPULATION (CONTROL, STABILIZATION AND WELFARE) BILL, 2021
Since the NPP cannot help in fighting population growth on its own, the Uttar Pradesh Law Commission has come up with the Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilization and Welfare) Bill, 2021 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the draft bill’), which contains provisions to deal with population growth. The draft bill, which is currently open to the public for comments, seeks to implement the two-child norm (a married couple having only 2 children and not more) in the state.
The bill seeks to implement the two-child norm by providing incentives to those who volunteer to have not more than 2 children, and gives additional benefits if couples volunteer to have only one child.
INCENTIVES FOR THOSE WHO ADOPT THE TWO-CHILD POLICY
Any person from the general public, who adopts the two-child norm by undergoing voluntary sterilization operation upon themself or their spouse is entitled to the following incentives:-
- Loan for construction of a house (for which interest is payable);
- Rebates on the use of water, electricity, etc.;
- Maternity/paternity leave of 12 months with full pay;
- A 3% increase in the Employer’s Contribution Fund under the National Pension Scheme;
Any public servant who adopts the policy is entitled to the aforementioned incentives, along with additional incentives such as two additional increments during their service, subsidy for the purchase of a house/plot/ house-site from the housing board, free healthcare and insurance coverage for the volunteer’s spouse and any additional benefit that is to be prescribed later on.
INCENTIVES FOR THOSE WHO ADOPT THE ONE-CHILD POLICY
Adopting the one-child policy requires more mental strength than adopting the two-child norm. Therefore, members of the general public, who adopt the one-child policy, are entitled to additional benefits such as free healthcare facilities for their children till they attain 20 years of age. In addition to this, their children are also to be given preference in admission to educational institutions, scholarships (if the child is a girl), and government jobs. Public servants who adopt the policy are given even more benefits. Interestingly, if a married couple below the poverty line adopts the one-child policy, then they are eligible for a lump-sum amount of 80,000 Rs. (if the child born to them is a boy) or 1,00,000 Rs. (if the child born to them is a girl), too.
Just like the bill seeks to encourage the adoption of these policies, it also seeks to discourage the flouting of the policy by taking away certain benefits from those who flout the two-child norm. Such people are to be debarred from contesting in elections held on a local level and are not eligible to apply for government jobs.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL VALIDITY OF THE DRAFT BILL
One can contend that every person is entitled to procreate and have as many children as they want to, as the right to life and personal liberty is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution. Furthermore, this bill can also be perceived as being against the right to profess, propagate and practice any religion (which is a fundamental right under Article 25), as Muslim men are allowed to practice polygamy, which will usually result in having more than two children.
However, such arguments were rejected by the Supreme Court when it examined the constitutional validity of similar legislation passed by the State of Haryana In the case of Javed vs. State of Haryana. In this case, the Petitioners challenged Sections 175(1)(q) and 177(1) of the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act 1994, which disqualified those who had more than 2 children after a particular date, from holding public posts in the Panchayats and the Local Government. The objective of disqualifying such people was to make everyone aware of family planning and population control.
The petitioners invoked the aforementioned arguments along with Article 14 (which emphasizes equality before law) to question the validity of the act. However, the court upheld the validity of the provisions on the ground that fundamental rights must not be read in isolation but must be read along with the Directive Principles of State Policy, which emphasise raising the standard of living and promoting the welfare of people.
The Supreme Court held that “none of these lofty ideals can be achieved without controlling the population inasmuch as our materialistic resources are limited and the claimants are many.” Further, it was also pointed out that the Fundamental Duties of citizens under Article 51A dictate that “the expansion of population being kept within reasonable bounds”, as it emphasizes sustainable development. The court also noted that “the torrential increase in the population of the country is one of the major hindrances in the pace of India’s socio-economic progress”.
The Supreme Court, in this context, also referred to the case of Air India vs. Nargesh Meerza, where it upheld the rule which terminated the services of Air Hostesses on their third pregnancy with two existing children. In that case, apart from stating how family planning is important for the health of women, it was also held that it is “essential” for preventing over-population. Therefore, it can be emphatically concluded that a law that seeks to control the population is constitutional.
The Uttar Pradesh Government’s attempt to curb the growth of the population is a step in the right direction. The bill does not only have adequate provisions to solve the issue of population growth, but it also bestows necessary incentives. The incentives will help the people of the state, and their adoption of the one-child policy or the two-child policy will help the country. However, whether the incentives can be given by the government is a question that only time can answer. Nevertheless, the endeavour, by keeping the Supreme Court’s opinions in mind, is essential as over-population is a massive problem. It will also be much appreciated if such a law is introduced pan-India so that the issue of over-population does not reach undesirable levels, which will hamper the development of the country.
 Page no. 2 of the National Population Policy, 2000 (2002 Reprint), available at:- http://nhm.gov.in/images/pdf/guidelines/nrhm-guidelines/national_population_policy_2000.pdf.
 https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/uttar-pradesh-govt-to-release-new-population-policy-all-you-need-to-know-101625962650024.html. and https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/up-law-panel-moots-proposals-to-promote-two-child-norm/article35251590.ece.
 See the Preamble to the draft bill.
 Section 6 of the draft bill.
 Section 4 of the draft bill.
 Section 6(2) of the draft bill.
 Section 7 of the draft bill.
 Section 9 of the draft bill.
 Section 10 of the draft bill.
 2003 AIR SC 3057.
 Article 47 of the Indian Constitution- Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health.
 Article 38 of the Indian Constitution-. State to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people.
 (1981) 4 SCC 335.