In what can only be described as a shocking and irresponsible announcement, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu has declared that couples who have more than two children will be offered incentives. This is a particularly bizarre declaration in a country which has been battling overpopulation for decades. Naidu has also repealed those rules which prohibited those having more than two children from contesting local body elections. This appears more like an appeasement device for there is no element of comprehensible reasonableness behind this absurd declaration. India has been battling the issue of overpopulation and has been trying to find ways in order to ensure that the citizens of the country embrace family planning and population control. Chandrababu Naidu’s move is diametrically opposed to the need of the hour.
Chandrababu Naidu tried justifying the controversial announcement. He stated that the population of the state has witnessed a decline of 1.6 per cent in population growth. The chief minister released a white paper on human resource development. He observed, “It is high time to correct the trends indicating demographic imbalances, lest the state may turn senile in the next two decades, marked by more eating mouths and less working hands.” He also said that 50% of the population of the state constituted youth below the age of 25 years and there was a need of keeping the state young by increasing the representation of youth in the total population. He also tried justifying the controversial attempt to encourage couples to produce more children on account of declining birth rate in the state. He added that in 2014, the birth rate stood at 37 per 1000 persons which have now declined to 10.51 per 1000 in 2018.
Chandrababu Naidu also made an absurd remark while hinting at offering incentives to couples producing more than three children. He stated that though the mouths required to feed will increase, there will also be an increase in the number of hands that will be working. This is nothing more than a highly illogical statement. After all, human resource is not the only resource on which human survival and progress demands. From where will the state manage a greater demand for natural and financial resources. There will be an increase in human resource with the increase in population but the natural resources will remain constant. Matching state expenditure and economic activity along with the rapid increase in population will pose another arduous challenge. Chandrababu Naidu is simply trying to portray a declaration aimed at appeasement as a reformist policy.
As far as the population of Andhra Pradesh is concerned, the state had emerged as the 10th largest state in terms of population in the country as per the 2011 census. The state recorded a population of 8.46 crore before the state was bifurcated and Telangana was formed in June 2014. However, it is clear that the state is not facing any deep crisis which would necessitate such an extreme measure and major policy departure on the part of Naidu government.
2019 Lok Sabha polls are around the corner and the Modi baiters in the opposition can go to any extent in order to make electoral gains. And when the fight is tough, it is a major temptation to rely on appeasement policies even if it means harming the national interest. It is clear that we cannot afford another population explosion and have no choice but to keep population growth and birth rate in firm control. However, Chandrababu Naidu has set a very bad precedent by this shameful attempt of making electrical gains at the cost of derailing attempts at family planning and population control.