Historically, politicians have tended to avoid mentioning overpopulation in their political agenda. However, the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech on 15th August 2019, did mention overpopulation. He said the issue of ever-rising population is a matter of concern and said that a small section of society, which keeps their families small, deserves respect. “What they are doing is an act of patriotism”, he said. This is the first time Modi has raised the issue, even though a section of his party, the BJP has been vocal about the matter for some-time.
In September 2017, the Assam Assembly passed the ‘Population and Women Empowerment Policy of Assam’ that specified that only candidates with two children or less would be eligible for government employment and the existing government staff were to strictly follow the two children family norm after January 2021. However, there are fortunate exceptions for those government officials who have twins when having their second child. This will be permitted.
Assam with an average fertility rate of 2.3 is one of 13 out of 36 Indian states which have fertility rates in 2017 higher than replacement of 2.1.
The intervention of Government population law is probably a historic first for a democratic government and it will be interesting to see if this intervention yields the results that the Assam Government is aspiring to. It will also be interesting to note if other Indian states will follow the example of Assam.
The introduction of this law has been reported widely in the Indian press and, to date, the enactment of this law appears to have created some political friction rather than constructive debate with some opposition parties accusing the government of targeting and prejudicing religious minorities.