The programme known as Family Planning since 1952 in India has been renamed as Family Welfare Programme. This change was necessary because during the 21 months long emergency many excesses were done in the name of family planning giving this term bad name among the people.
Over-population is the most pressing problem of India. In fact, it has caused equally complex problems such as poverty, undernourishment, unemployment and fragmentation of holdings (land). The entire battle against poverty is the thwarted by the rapid increase in the population. The tragedy is, while our population increases poverty, the country’s stark poverty itself is in many areas a major cause of our over-population.
Realizing that the rapidly growing population posed a major challenge, the government of India adopted family welfare as an official programme in 1952. It was the first government in the world to do so and to include family welfare as part of its Five Year Plans. India’s family welfare programme is thus almost as old as freedom itself and is now the largest of its kind in the world.
One of the aims of the First Five Year Plan was reducing the birth rate to a level of which the national economy could sustain. The Second Five Year Plan emphasized that a higher rate of population growth was bound to affect adversely the rate of economic progress and the living standard per capita. The high population growth rate revealed in 1961 census promoted the Government of India to revise and reinforce the family welfare drive. Free supply of contraceptives was arranged along with other facilities for checking the growth of the population. During the three Annual Plans (1966-69) the family welfare programme was made time-bound and target oriented with huge funds embarked for this campaign. The Fourth Plan gave family welfare the highest priority and raised the provision for it to Rs. 315 crores. The Fifth Plan outlay on this programme was Rs. 516 lakh crores. It indicated the great importance that our Government attached to this programme. Subsequent plans also laid emphasis on the family planning.
While considerable work has been done in family welfare in India during the past two decades, the reality is that only a fringe of the population has been touched. After reviewing the situation, the Government of India has decided to launched a series of measures which are expected to help the country to achieve the planned target to reducing the birth rate from an estimated 35 per thousand at the beginning of Fifth Plan to 25 per thousand at the end of Sixth Plan. Giving allowance for the steady decline in the death rate that will continue as a result of the improvement in our medical services and the living standard of people, it was expected to bring down the growth rate of the population in India to 1.4 percent by 1984.
The New Package of Measures to achieve this objective includes raising the minimum age of marriage for boys to 21 and for girls to 18, the representation of the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative will be frozen on the basis of the 1971 census until 2001; and 1971 figures will continue to be followed in the allocation of Central assistance to State Plan, devaluation of taxes and grant-in-aid; special measures to be taken to raise the level of women’s education, especially in the backward areas, where the family welfare performance have so fare been unimpressive; introduction of population values in the education system; motivation of citizen to adopt “responsible reproductive behavior” in their own and in the national interest and a multimedia motivation strategy.
About 16 million couples in the reproductive age-group are currently practicing family welfare in one form or another. So the Government’s effort have achieved some success. But considering the total population of 950 millions (at present), the number of those who are practicing family welfare is too small.
An elaborate organizational set up at the Centre and the State levels down to the villages has already been evolved. The various devices and methods used are contraceptives, sterilization, abortions and Nirodh which is available freely at subsidized rates, or almost free. A broad-based programme of education and motivation is in operation through the use of mass media and other channels. The causes of partial failure of the family welfare campaign and financial targets achieved involved much wastage; concentration on urban areas and general neglect of rural. Japan has achieved 50% fall in birth by high motivation and persistence of education. Now, that the programme has been launched with greater drive, better results are expected especially if the whole-hearted co-operation of people is assured.