Report of the Working Group on Population Policy
The government of India’s Planning Commission appointed the Working Group on Population Policy on October 20, 1978, with Dr. V.A. Pai Panandiker (then, director at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi) as its chairperson.
The Working Group was formed to study the ‘demographic situation’ in
India and suggest a programme to lower the fertility rate; to examine the social, economic and environmental variables
related to fertility control and family welfare; and to suggest ways to
integrate schemes run by various ministries and state governments to make the
fertility control programme more effective. The Report of the Working Group
on Population Policy was released in May 1980.
The report’s 12 chapters include an introduction (Chapter 1) and discuss
the Working Group’s approach to population policies (Chapter 2), India’s short-
and long-term demographic goals (Chapter 3-5), an institutional framework for linkages
between fertility control and other developmental programmes (Chapters 6 and 7),
the infrastructure for population control in India (Chapter 8), incentives for
state governments to implement family welfare programmes (Chapter 9), contraceptive
technology and biomedical research (Chapter 10), socio-economic information and
research for population control policies (Chapter 11) and the Working Group’s
conclusions (Chapter 12).
To devise an effective population policy, the report states, it is important to ascertain the goals of specific social and economic development programmes – including literacy and employment schemes for women – and their effects on population parameters such as fertility and mortality rates.
The decennial population growth rate was 13.3 per cent in the 1940s, 21.6 per cent in the 1950s and 24.8 per cent in the 1960s – notes the report. The decennial death rate dropped from 27.4 per cent in the 1940s to 18.9 per cent in the 1960s, while the decennial birth rate increased from 39.9 per cent to 41.1 per cent in the same period.
The government of India should set a goal to regulate the country’s ‘net reproduction rate’ (NRR) in the long term, states the report. It suggests that the aim be an ‘NRR of unity or 1’ by 2001. This implies that “…for a given set of conditions of mortality and fertility, on an average a woman will be replaced by just one daughter and two-child family will be the normative pattern in the society by the year 2001.”
The report divides states into three groups based on the percentage of ‘couples effectively protected by contraceptives’ or the ‘average percentage of couple protection’ using government data from 1976 to 1979. Group A – where less than 15 per cent of couples use contraceptives – consists of Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh; Group B – where 15 to 25 per cent of couples use contraceptives – includes Assam, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal; and Group C – where more than 25 per cent of couples use contraceptives – includes Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab and Tamil Nadu.
The Working Group recommends that Group A states aim to reach an NRR of unity or 1 by 2001-02, Group B states by 1996-97, and Group C states by 1991-92.
Raising the age of marriage for girls cuts down the duration of the ‘reproductive span’ of a married couple. Further, there are greater chances that the couple will use contraceptives as the wife is likely to be more mature at an older age. If raising the age of marriage for girls leads to an increase in their years of schooling, it can have a significant impact on fertility rates.
Panchayats should be given a role in delivering contraceptives and services and motivating people to use them, the Working Group says.
The report says that family planning programmes should be promoted through messages on the radio. Such communications should be designed for specific audiences such as agricultural and landless labourers, industrial workers or plantation workers. They should target younger age groups, particularly those in their late teens up to the age of 25.
Fertility control and family planning programmes should aim to educate and motivate people to have small families. The Working Group states that using coercion to reduce fertility rates would be counterproductive. The principal task should be to ‘raise the level of consciousness’ on the need for population control.
Focus and Factoids by Apratim Bhattacharya.
Working Group on Population Policy (Chairperson: Dr. V. A. Pai Panandiker)
Planning Commission, Government of India, New Delhi