August 14, 2013

Is India’s Population Policies any better today?

On the eve of the World Population Day, Centre for Health and Social Justice along with the National Coalition against Coercive Population Policies, National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights and Human Rights Law Network organised a Media Dialogue on July 10, 2013.

The media dialogue brought together a panel of parliamentarians, health and human rights advocates and senior media persons who questioned if government’s population policies had changed over time and sought to advocate with them for the need to address contemporary population issues and bring in new perspectives into these discussions. 

In the plenary session chaired by Mr. A.R. Nanda, former Secretary of the Department of Family Welfare, GOI  focused on the need for a more comprehensive and far less coercive mechanism then the currently followed Expected Level of Achievement (ELA) which is still a target approach followed by all the states.  He stressed the need for a shift from treating individuals as targets to improving quality of care indicators which needs to go beyond purely clinical indicators with clear monitoring mechanisms”

Dr. Abhijit Das, Director of Centre for Health and Social Justice in his presentation strongly stated the need to address migration from rural to urban cities which was the reason for ‘overcrowding’ in cities and not population growth. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare needs to educate everyone about the ‘population momentum’ effect. China is facing the brunt due to its one-child norm and soon going to face the situation where there will be very low productive population and huge imbalance in sex ratios. If India takes the same path of the two-child norm, it will land up in the same boat.  Instead of worrying about increasing numbers, India needs to concentrate on build the skills of the workforce as we will have a large young population who could be turned into an asset for the country.

Advocate Colin Gonsalves, Supreme Court Advocate and Director of Human Rights Law Network pressed on the need for greater accountability of the government towards people. He highlighted the subhuman conditions in the public health sector in which women are sterilized in different parts of the country which is exactly like as it happened during the, ‘emergency era’.

Dr. S.K. Sikdar, Deputy Commissioner and head of Family Planning Division, Government of India, shared that National Population Policy 2000 is not about ‘population control’. India’s decadal growth rate is on a massive decline, nothing can hasten this decline. The government is focusing on the continuum of care including maternal, child and adolescent health and spacing. He acknowledged that ‘quality of care’ continues to be a concern for the government. 

Ms Jagmati Sangwan, the National Vice President of All India Democratic Woman’s Association (AIDWA) stressed that development is the best contraceptive, and the need to focus on empowering the Dalit’s and the marginalised communities through education and economic empowerment so that they have the right to choose their family size instead of forcing them into sterilisation.

Dr Indu Agnihotri, director of Centre for Women Development Studies, a research organisation in Delhi, shared her concern about the way new contraceptive in the garb of spacing is pushed across within the country, and the need for the government to take notice of this unhealthy trend which compromises the health of women and leads to poor reproductive health outcomes for a number of women in India. 

Ms Usha Rai and Ms. Rajalakshmi, senior media persons stressed on the need for stronger media and civil society collaboration. The focus of media writings needs to be brought back to reproductive health and ‘rights’ angle. 

Twenty one civil society organisation representatives from Delhi, Bihar, Odisha and Thirteen media persons were part of this dialogue.

No comments: