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THE Chief Minister, Digvijay Singh Digvijay Singh is a senior Congress (I) politician in India and has been the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh state for two five-year terms. He was born on February 28, 1947 in the royal family of Raghogarh principality, in Guna district of Madhya Pradesh. , calls it consciousness-raising. His executive secretary, R. Gopalakrishnan, says it's a gimmick. Firebrand fire·brand  
1. A person who stirs up trouble or kindles a revolt.

2. A piece of burning wood.

 feminist Member of Parliament Shabana Azmi Shabana Azmi (Hindi: शबाना आज़मी, born 18 September 1950 in New Delhi, India) is one of the leading actresses of parallel cinema.  declares it unconstitutional. New population-control legislation passed by the huge central Indian province of Madhya Pradesh Madhya Pradesh (mäd`yə prä`dĭsh), state (2001 provisional pop. 60,385,118), 119,010 sq mi (308,240 sq km), central India, between the Deccan and the Ganges plain. The capital is Bhopal. , banning those candidates having their third or subsequent child after January 2001 from standing for village council polls, is arousing strong passions.

Singh's administration claims its population control plan will empower women by offering them contraceptive choices and childcare facilities. Azmi disagrees. 'How can women help population control when they have no say in the number of children they have?'

India established the world's first national family planning family planning

Use of measures designed to regulate the number and spacing of children within a family, largely to curb population growth and ensure each family’s access to limited resources.
 programme over 50 years ago, and the country's overall total fertility rate The total fertility rate (TFR, sometimes also called the fertility rate, period total fertility rate (PTFR) or total period fertility rate (TPFR)) of a population is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime if she  has declined in the last twenty years TWENTY YEARS. The lapse of twenty years raises a presumption of certain facts, and after such a time, the party against whom the presumption has been raised, will be required to prove a negative to establish his rights.
. But Madhya Pradesh's growth rate is 40 per cent higher than the national average. The law follows a federal population policy introduced in February 2000. Its long-term objective is to stabilise the country's population by 2045 by reducing the total fertility rate -- the number of children a woman will bear during her reproductive years -- from 3.13 in 1999 to 2.1 by 2010.

While the national policy includes some progressive measures such as promoting primary education for girls, addressing the need for contraception and granting state incentives to reduce infant mortality (hardware) infant mortality - It is common lore among hackers (and in the electronics industry at large) that the chances of sudden hardware failure drop off exponentially with a machine's time since first use (that is, until the relatively distant time at which enough mechanical , there are disincentives for those who do not toe the two-child line. Health insurance will only be provided to the poor if they undergo sterilisation after two children. Although targets for contraceptive use were officially dropped in 1996, quotas for government health workers were never eliminated. Instead, they have been renamed with euphemisms like 'Expected Levels of Achievement'.

Abuses of women's reproductive health Within the framework of WHO's definition of health[1] as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, reproductive health, or sexual health/hygiene  and rights are rife. Oral contraceptive oral contraceptive
A pill, typically containing estrogen or progesterone, that prevents conception or pregnancy. Also called birth control pill.
 pills are distributed by health workers without mention of possible side effects Side effects

Effects of a proposed project on other parts of the firm.
. Until a recent Supreme Court decision banning its use, the drug quinacrine quinacrine /quin·a·crine/ (kwin´ah-krin) an antimalarial, antiprotozoal, and anthelmintic, used as the hydrochloride salt, especially for suppressive therapy of malaria and in the treatment of giardiasis and tapeworm infestations.  had been used to sterilise Verb 1. sterilise - make free from bacteria

autoclave - subject to the action of an autoclave

disinfect - destroy microorganisms or pathogens by cleansing; "disinfect a wound"

 women despite a World Health Organization warning about side effects. All this has led activists to charge the Indian government with violating its promise to honour international pledges rejecting the use of family planning quotas and coercion to achieve lower fertility rates.

Madhya Pradesh -- part of the northern tier The Northern Tier can refer to
  • In America, the Five Northern Tier counties in Pennsylvania.
  • The Northern Tier National High Adventure Bases of the Boy Scouts of America
 of poverty-stricken and populous states -- is not alone in punishing large families. A bill before the Delhi assembly proposes that families with more than two children be denied ration cards that allow cheap food, bank loans and enrolment in government housing schemes.

For human rights activitsts -- and ordinary citizens -- the new population control moves invoke the spectre of state-sponsored rights abuses in pursuit of contraceptive targets. Seared sear 1  
v. seared, sear·ing, sears
1. To char, scorch, or burn the surface of with or as if with a hot instrument. See Synonyms at burn1.

 into public memory are the forcible mass sterilisation camps for women and men set up in the mid-1970s by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Protests over these camps are believed to have helped bring down Gandhi's government in 1977. But the fear was so great, recalls Dr Thelma Narayan, member of India's Population Commission, that villagers would run away from health workers long after the Gandhi government fell. The family planning programme virtually collapsed, before recovering several years later.

Mindful of the legacy, India's current prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, among politicians who opposed the Gandhi government excesses, recently warned health officials in another northern state, Uttar Pradesh, that achieving family planning goals 'shouldn't be done the way it was in the late 1970s don't force people. Spread awareness, instead'. But Brinda Karat, a prominent left-wing activist belonging to the All India Democratic Women's Association The All India Democratic Women's Association (in Hindi: अखिल भरतिय जनवादी महिला समिति) is the women's wing of the Communist Party of  (AIDWA AIDWA All India Democratic Women's Association ), believes the government has not shed its fondness for bloated budgets -- swollen by foreign donors with their own population agendas -- in pursuit of slashing birth rates.

'National and international experience...clearly indicate that family size is dependent on non-demographic factors', a memorandum by AIDWA and other women's groups stated in response to the Delhi draft bill, pointing to the need to enhance women's status in order to ensure smaller families. In states such as Madhya Pradesh these factors include inequality in land, resources, income, education, poor health indicators and women's lack of decision-making power.

In contrast, the southern state of Kerala addressed these factors by investing heavily in women's development. One result was that it achieved the fastest and greatest drop in fertility rates in the country. The fertility slow down exceeded even that of China, with its draconian one child policy, over the same time period.

The Madhya Pradesh population plan -- to reduce its present fertility rate of 4 to 2.1 by 2011 -- is also unrealistic, said T. K. Sundari Ravindran, an expert on women, population and development. Early marriage followed by repeated childbearing is the norm in the state. Families want many children because of high rates of infant mortality at 99 per 1,000 births. Sons are seen as the only security for poor parents in old age, and women face intense family pressure to bear male children.

The state government says it intends to reduce maternal and infant mortality in order 'to facilitate the process' of fertility reduction. Yet its plans to improve contraceptive choice remain very narrow. Condom promotion and female barrier methods are not mentioned. Policy documents continue to discuss 'eligible couples' rather than services for all men and women, including the unmarried. Couples with two or more children will be 'motivated' to adopt permanent methods of contraception.

'We have to start somewhere', insists the Health Secretary, D. S. Mathur, pointing to a pilot project in one of MP's sixty-two districts, Raigarh, which enumerates each family's number of children, educational status and related details. 'We will use these to pinpoint contraception, schooling and whatever is needed', he says.

After decades of propaganda for smaller families, nearly everyone recites the mantra. When Panos Features visited the western districts of Dhar and Jhabua, where voluntary and government efforts at education and development are visible, women were cannily correct in the presence of officialdom, affirming they don't want more than two children.

But after the government officials departed, Leelavati, an experienced midwife of 22 years, said: 'Women won't go for an "operation" [sterilisation] till they have at least two boys. Most have four, five or six children', she explained.

Deep inside the lush teak teak, tall deciduous tree (Tectona grandis) of the family Verbenaceae (verbena family), native to India and Malaysia but now widely cultivated in other tropical areas.  forests of tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh (now a separate state), the two-child policy seemed a world away. 'This is wrong. Who is the government to tell us? What will happen if the children die?' asked the thirty-two-year-old Sarwan Kumar. Pachibabi, an elderly woman, dismissed the state's medical services which, along with village councils, are now expected to provide family planning choices and health care. 'They come once a year, ask questions and go away', she said.

Mindful of history and population control legislation, Sundari Ravindran and other activists fear what might happen if health workers do turn up. She warned: 'When officials declare that birth rates must fall, can coercion and abuse of women's reproductive rights be far behind?'

This article was provided by The Panos Institute which specialises in information and communication for sustainable development.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Contemporary Review Company Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:Acharya, Keya
Publication:Contemporary Review
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jul 1, 2001

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