Wednesday, February 16, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Freeze on LS seats till 2026 proposed
New population policy unveiled
Tribune News Service and agencies

NEW DELHI, Feb 15 — In a bid to boost population control programmes, the government today proposed to freeze till 2026 the number of Lok Sabha seats of every state at the current level and put on hold the delimitation exercise.

The delimitation exercise to determine the number of seats on the basis of population was scheduled to be undertaken next year. A constitutional amendment Bill seeking to extend the freeze would be introduced in Parliament after it adopted the draft National Policy on Population 2000.

The Cabinet today adopted the new draft policy which suggests several promotional and motivational measures for small family norms and creation of a new structure, involving the centre and the states, to review and oversee the implementation of the population policy.

The three-pronged population policy, which was approved by the Union Cabinet, aims to stabilise population by 2045, continue with two-child norm and freeze the number of Lok Sabha seats at current level, the Union Health Minister, Mr N.T. Shanmugam told mediapersons here today, after the Cabinet meeting.

The decision to put off the delimitation of constituencies was to encourage the State governments to “fearlessly pursue” the agenda for population stabilisation.

The exigencies of coalition politics perhaps weighed heavily on the National Democratic Alliance government today as it unveiled the “National Population Policy- 2000”. For a long time, states from the South, which have vigorously promoted the small family norm and met with a measure of success, have been raising the issue of limitation and the apparent loss of representative strength.

States like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala would have lost since there was a dip in population growth as compared to some states in the North. This would have reflected in the delimitation which was to be taken up this year.

The new population policy outlines 16 promotional and motivational measures for adoption of small family norm. These include community level incentives, family welfare-linked health insurance scheme for couples below the poverty line who undergo sterilisation with not more than two living children.

Couples below the poverty line will be rewarded if they marry after legal age of marriage, register it and have their first child after mother reaches the age of 21, accept the small family norm and adopt a terminal method after birth of the second child.

Continuance of the Balika Samridhi Yojna, maternity benefit scheme, revolving fund for income generating activities by village self-help groups, creches and child care centres in rural areas and urban slums, facilities for safe abortion and soft loans for local entreprenuers to run ambulance service and strict enforcement of the Child Marriage Restraint Act and pre-natal diagnostic techniques are among the measures.

The implementation of the policy will be reviewed by a new National Commission on Population, to be headed by the Prime Minister with Chief Ministers of states/UTs and Union Minister in charge of Family Welfare and other central ministries concerned, Mr Shanmugam said.

The “immediate objective” of the policy is to address the unmet needs for contraception, health care infrastructure, health personnel and integrated service delivery, he said.

The “medium term objectives”, are to bring the total fertility rate to replacement levels by 2010 by vigorous implementation of inter-sectoral strategies. The long-term objective is to achieve a stable population by 2045 at a level consistent, with the requirements of economic growth, he said.

For the first time a population policy has listed the 32 states and union territories, giving their respective population as on March, 1999, and as a percentage of the total paopulation of the country. It was noted that nearly 12 per cent of population had already achieved net replacement levels in 9 states and union territories.

Approximately, 33.5 per cent of the population in 11 states and union territories was slowly reaching the goal of net replacement levels. However, nearly 55 per cent of the population in 12 states and union territories lags way behind.

Fifteen strategic themes or thrust areas have been identified to be pursued in stand alone or inter-sectoral programmes in order to achieve the national socio-demographical goals enumerated.

The action plan for these strategic themes include innumerable good management practices of South-East Asia, specifically from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand emphasising not merely demographic but quality of life goals.

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