Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Population Policy : Need for a Chance

The population problem in India has acquired such a serious dimension that the stage has arrived to realize that adherence to the principle of voluntariness will not do. A family planning programme based on only education, persuasion and access to contraceptive facilities is simply not enough. There is need to formulate a population control policy which would envisage supplementation of dedicated efforts in these areas. These schemes need a drastic change rather than the present incentives and disincentives – a carrot and stick approach just to nudge the country a two child family norm.
In recent past, there has been a spate of accidents involving school children getting plunged with their school bus or getting crushed under the cruel wheels of a speeding bus/truck. Such incidents really lacerate the psyche of any civilized society. Though the drivers of such vehicles do deserve severe punishments, but the other aspect of concern is the overcrowding in the buses. This is all due to increase in population without any considerations at any level or thought by the society. Overcrowding due to more population symbolizes the ugly face of a leadership that has displayed a mind – boggling abdication of responsibility. Even as the country is bursting at the seams every government getting power at the centre has done nothing but twiddle its thumbs. Although slated to become the most populous nation on Earth within the next two decades, India does not have a population control policy in place.
The incentives – disincentives scheme at the national level to control population can cover only the organized sector. Such organized sector consists of employees of the central and state governments as well as the corporate sector in initial stages of implementation. There are about seventeen million employees under central and state governments whereas the private and public sector under corporate have only 28 million working class. Thus incentive – disincentive scheme covers only 45 million couples which is a negligible gain as compared to the overall population of the country. Such a scheme of incentive – disincentive has been debated at many occasions at the national level in various forums. The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM) also prepared a document called “Population and Socio – Economic Development in India” that lists various incentives and disincentives which can be applied for a better population control policy and would be widely accepted.
Under the population control policy through incentive – disincentive scheme, the best measures can be extension of retirement age and increase in pension, educational allowances, special maternity leave with full pay upto only two children, preferential treatment in respect of house rent allowance / housing loans / purchase of vehicle for transport and cash awards to acceptors of sterilization. Further free medical treatment or reimbursement of medical expenses up to two children would be a better incentive. However, more disincentives should be imposed on those who do not follow the norm of two children. There is a need for enactment of a law under which the central and state governments as well as all companies would be mandatorily required to implement an incentive – disincentives scheme and specifically pay some minimum cash to such of their employees who go in for sterilization.
The most important incentive for securing most viable results would be providing handsome cash awards to those who accept sterilization. Truly. It is the money that “makes the mare go”. Actually neither the state nor the central governments have any scheme of sufficient cash awards for workers undergoing sterilization. The corporate do almost nothing towards such schemes of cash incentives. Rather they would give some incentive on piecemeal basis. In some of the public sector undertakings there is a provision of monetary incentive to the acceptor of sterilization in the range of Rs. 200 after two children and Rs. 150 after three children. Such undertakings must also provide an incentive of Rs. 500 for accepting sterilization to an employee after the first child.
The government companies or the private sector don’t understand the traumatic experiences at a personal level faced by the workers both during vasectomy and tubectomy. The meager cash awards of Rs. 200 or Rs. 300 amounts to the mocking of the system. The cash incentive must be made very attractive with a base level fixed at minimum of Rs. 3000 for sterilization. The corporate sector has also shown very disappointing approach towards implementation of such incentive schemes in their companies. This is despite of the fact that all expenditure on promotion of family planning is eligible for 100 percent tax rebate under section 36(I) of the Income Tax.
In addition to the above method of population control, there are other incentives which can be given to employees who do not go for sterilization but use other methods of contraception like the pill, IUCD or condom. The only difference will be that the monetary benefit would be of a deferred nature. Under such schemes, certain fixed amount can be deposited by the organization periodically in an account to be opened in the name of the beneficiary. This accumulated amount can be given when the wife of the employee reaches the menopausal age of say 45 years. However, if the couple gets a third child, the accumulated amount must be forfeited altogether. This way, each employee will be having an inspiration that he can get so much accumulated sum after certain number of years. Such amounts will be available to the employees without contributing anything from their own pockets.

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