Dialogue  January-March, 2005, Volume 6 No. 3

Stabilization of Population and National Population Policy

Saponti Borthakur

“Today, India’s population has crossed one billion mark. This is a serious matter that is both cause for concern and introspection- concern over the impact that a runaway population growth is bound to have on the nation’s economic, natural and other resources; introspection over where we went wrong and how we can stabilized the population”.—The then prime minister Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, on May 11, 2000.

India’s population crossed one billion mark by the year 2000. India is having now 16% of the world population on 2.4 % of the global land area. If the current trend continues India may overtake China in 2045 to become the most populous country in the world. While global population has increased three fold during the century, from 2 billion to 6 billion, the population of India has increased nearly 5 times, from 238 million (23 crore) to one billion (100 crore) in the same period. India’s current annual increase in population of 15.5 million, is large enough to neutralize efforts to conserve the resource endowment and protect environment.

Stabilizing Population is an essential requirement for promoting sustainable development with more equitable distribution. However, i

                                                    Table 1

                        Population projection for India ( Million)

March 1991            March 2001              March 2011               March 2016

     846.3                      1012.4                      1178.9                        1263.5


is as much a function of making reproductive health care accessible and affordable for all, as of increasing the provision, and outreach of Primary and secondary education, extending basic amenities including sanitation, safe drinking water and housing besides empowering women and enhancing their employment opportunities, and providing transport and communication.

Population growth in India continues to be high on account of the large size of the population in the reproductive age group (estimated contribution 58 percent). An addition of 417.2 million between 1991 and 2016 is anticipated despite substantial reductions in family size in several states, including those which have already achieved replacement levels of TFR (Total Fertility Rate). This momentum of increase in population will continue for some more years because high TFRs in the past have resulted in a large proportion of the population being currently in their reproductive years. It is imperative that reproductive age group adopts without further delay or exception the “Small family norm”, for the reason that about 45 percent of population increase is contributed by births above two children per family.


                                                    Table 2

                        Anticipated growth in population (million)

Year              If current trend continues               If TFR 2.1 is achieved by 2010

                       Total               Increase in                Total                   Increasing

                  population           population            population               population

1991                846.3                         –                   846.3                                 –

1996                934.2                    17.6                   934.2                            17.6

1997                949.9                    15.7                   949.0                            14.8

2000                996.9                    15.7                   991.0                            14.0

2002             1027. 6                    15.4                 1013.0                            11.0

2010             1162. 3                    16.8                 1107.0                         11.75.

Source: Ministry of Heath & Family Welfare, GOI.

Higher fertility due to unmet need for contraception (estimated contribution 20 percent). India has 168 million eligible couples, of which just 44 percent are currently effectively protected. Urgent steps are required to make contraception more widely available, accessible, and affordable. Around 74 percent of the population lives in rural areas in about 5.5 lakh Villages, many with poor communications and transport. Reproductive health and basic health infrastructure and services often do not reach the Villages, and accordingly, vast numbers of people cannot avail of these services.

High wanted fertility due to the high infant mortality rate ( IMR) (estimated contribution about 20 percent). Repeated child births are seen as an insurance against multiple infant and child deaths and accordingly, high infant mortality, stymies all efforts at reducing total fertility Rate.

Over 50 percent of girls marry below the age of 18 the minimum legal age of marriage, resulting in a typical reproductive pattern of “too early, too frequent, too many”. Around 33 percent births occur at intervals of less than 24 months, which also results in high IMR.

India’s population Policy

India has the distinction of being the first country in the world to launch a national programme, emphasizing family planning to the extent necessary for reducing birth rates “ to stabilize the population at a level consistent with the requirement of national economy”.

The pre-independence Period

The British rulers of the country were not interested in formulating any population policy for India, nor they were in favour of the birth control movement, because, firstly, in their own homeland the birth control issue was itself controversial and secondly, because the general policy of British was to keep away from any measures which would be considered by the Indians as an intrusion on their own traditions, customs, values and beliefs.

A section of the intellectual elite among the Indians showed some concern about the population issue during the period between the two world wars, despite the fact that the pre- occupation of the general population was primarily with the independence movement. Initially, the cause of concern was the density of population rather than the rate of growth, for high rates of mortality as well as of fertility did not result in alarmingly high growth rates. Census 1931 indicated that the intercensal increase was much higher than that during the earlier decade; and there was much difference of opinion regarding whether or not India was over populated. The Neo- Multhusians were of the opinion that a smaller population would mean better living conditions for the masses. Following Multhus, they argued that any further gains in the economic condition of the country would be wiped out if the population continued to grow rapidly. They advocated the need for a population policy to spread the practice of birth control among the people.


                                                   Table 3

                        Population growth in India 1901-2001

Year              population                increase (crores)                   percentage

                       (crores)                 During the decade                    increase


                                                                                                     the decade

1891                   23.59                         – 0.04                                     – 0.2

1901                   23.55                           +1.6                                      +5.7

1911                     25.2                           – 0.1                                     – 0.3

1921                     25.1                          + 2.8                                   + 11.0

1931                     27.9                          + 4.0                                   + 14.2

1941                     31.9                          + 4.2                                   + 13.3

1951                     36.1                          + 7.8                                   + 21.5

1961                     43.9                        + 10.8                                   + 24.8

1971                     54.8                        + 13.5                                   + 24.7

1981                     68.3                        + 16.1                                   + 23.5

1991                     84.4                        + 12.0                                   + 14.2

2001                     100.                        + 15.6                                + 21.34.

Source: census of India. GOI.

Several important developments took place between 1916 and the attainment of independence in 1947. In 1916, Pyare Kishen Wattal published his book, The Population

Problem in India, in which he advocated family planning . In 1925, Raghunath Dhondo Kave, a Professor of mathematics, opened the first birth control centre in Bombay and faced dismissal at the hands of his orthodox employers.On June11, 1930, the government of Mysore, a progressive native state, opened the first government birth control clinic in the world. In 1931, the senate of the Madras University accepted the proposal to impart instruction in methods of conception control. The following year the Government of Madras agreed to open birth control clinics in the presidency. In 1932, the All India Women’s conference at Lucknow recommended that men and women should be instructed in methods of birth control in recognized clinics. In 1935, the Indian National Congress set up a National planning Committee. The committee expressed concern inter – alia , over the size of the Indian population which was a basic issue in national economic planning. The committee recommended in the interest of the social economy, family happiness, and national planning, family planning and limitation of children are essential. On December 1, 1935, the society for the study and promotion of Family Hygiene was founded with Lady Cowsji Jahangir as its first President, training courses in birth control were conducted by Dr. A.P. Pillai, a vigorous advocate of family planning. In 1939, the “ Birth control world-wide” in Uttar Pradesh and the Matru Seva Sangh in Ujjain, Madya Pradesh, established birth control clinics.

In the midst of all this support for population control and family planning, a different note was sounded by the Famine Enquiry Commission of 1943, called the Woodhead Commission, which stated “At the present time a deliberate state policy with the objective of encouraging the practice of birth control among the mass of the population is impracticable. A fall in birth rate will tend to follow rather than precede economic development”.

Once again, support for birth control was evident when the Health Survey and Development Committee set up by the government of India in 1945, under the Chairmanship of Sir Joseph Bhore, recommended that birth control service should be provided for the promotion of the health of mothers and children.

It is clear that, prior to independence, the controversial issue of birth control concerned only a handful of intellectuals while the actual practice of birth control was restricted to the westernized minority in the cities. There was pressure from the intellectuals that Government formulate a policy for dissemination of information on birth control and for encouraging its practice.

Milestones in the Evolution of the population policy in independent India :          

The Bohare Committee Report 1946, is a Milestone in the evolution of Family Planning policy in Independent India. India was consistent in advocating a population control policy right from the first five year plan ( 1951-56). Yet after 50 years, the goal of population stabilization is still eluding us.

In 1952, India was the first country in the world to launch a National Programme, emphasizing family planning to the extent necessary for reducing birth rates “ to stabilize the population at a level consistent with the requirement of national economy”. After 1952, sharp declines in death rates were however, not accompanied by a similar drop in birth rates. In 1966, several important developments concerning the family planning programme took place. A full fledged Department of Family planning was established within the Ministry of Health, which was designated as the ministry of Health and Family Planning and a Minister of cabinet rank was placed in its charge. A cabinet committee of Family Planning, initially headed by the Prime Minister and later by the Finance Minister, was constituted at the central level.

In 1976, during emergency govt. announced National population Policy. Through this :

          (i)   The Government proposed legislation to raise the age of marriage to 18 for girls and 21 for boys;

         (ii)   The Government would take special measures to raise the level of female education in the states;

        (iii)  As the acceptance of Family Planning by the poorer sections of society was significantly related to the use of monetary compensation as from May 1, 1976 to Rs. 150 for sterilization (by men or women) if performed with 2 children, Rs. 100 if performed with three living children and Rs. 70 if performed with four or more children.

Soon after the announcement of the national population policy, the government took advantage of the emergency conditions in the country and went in for a massive drive for compulsory sterilization. During 1976 – 77 a total of 8.2 million sterilizations were carried out as against the target of 4.3 million sterilizations. The speeding up of the compulsory sterilization programme was carried out more through coercive measures than the provision of incentives. The general public felt that the arm of administration was used to force sterilization. Since the administrative staff had to work on the target oriented approach, the situation led to widespread misuse of power to round up people for mass vasectomy camps. In the process it led to a distortion of programme in various ways.

         (a)   The target-oriented approach prompted the family planning staff to work in an indiscriminate manner and high proportion of people sterilized did not belong to the reproductive age – group.

        (b)   The family planning programme was speeded up at the cost of general health services; consequently provision of normal health service suffered in hospitals.

The Janata Government which came to power in March 1977, showed utter lack of appreciation of the seriousness of the population problem. The Family Panning Programme was renamed as the Family Welfare Programme The Policy statement of the Janata Government in June 1977 spoke of only voluntary methods to solve the population problem and the need to integrate family planning services with those for health, maternity, child care and nutrition. The Bureaucracy too soft- pedaled the implementation. There was a major set back to the sterilization programme.

The Policy statements of both 1976 and 1977 were laid on the Table of the house of the parliament, but never discussed or adopted. The National Health Policy of 1983 emphasized the need for “ securing the small family norm through voluntary efforts, and moving towards the goal of population stabilization”. While adopting the health policy, parliament emphasized the need for a separate National Population policy. The National Health Policy 1983 stated that replacement levels of total fertility rate (TFR) should be achieved by 2000.

In 1991, the National Development Council appointed a Committee on population with Sri. Karunakaran as Chairman. The Karunakaran report ( Report of the National Development Council (NDC) Committee on Population) endorsed by NDC in 1993 proposed the formulation of a National Population Policy to take “ a long term holistic view of development, population growth and environment protection” and to suggest policies and guidelines for formulation of programmes” and a monitoring mechanism with short, medium and long term perspectives and goals” ( Planning Commission 1992). It was argued that the earlier policy statements of 1976 and 1977 were placed on the table of parliament, however parliament never really discussed or adopted them. Specifically, it was recommended that a National Policy of Population should be formulated by the government and adopted by parliament.

In 1993 an Expert Group headed by Dr. M.S Swaminathan was asked to prepare a draft of national population policy that would be discussed by the cabinet and then by the parliament. In 1994 the Expert Group submitted its Report. The report was circulated among members of parliament and comments requested form central and state agencies. It was anticipated that a National Population policy approved by the National Development Council and the parliament would help produce a broad political consensus.

In 1997, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of India’s Independence, then Prime Minister Mr. I.K. Gujral promised to announce a National Population policy in near future. During the same year in November Cabinet approved the Draft National Population policy with the direction that this be placed before parliament. However, this document could not placed in either House of Parliament as the respective houses stood adjourned followed by dissolution of the Lok Sahba.

Another round of consultations was held during 1998, and another draft National population Policy was finalized and placed before the cabinet in March 1999. Cabinet appointed a Group of Ministers (headed by Dy. Chairman, Planning Commission) to examine the draft policy. The GOM met several times and deliberated over the nuances of the population policy. In order to finalize a view about the inclusion or exclusion of incentives and disincentives, the Group of Ministers invited a cross – section of expects from among academia, public health professional, demographers, social scientists, and women representatives. The GOM finalized a draft population policy and placed the same before cabinet. This was discussed in cabinet on 19 November 1999. Several suggestions were made during the deliberations. On that basis, a fresh drafts was submitted to cabinet.

The National Population Policy 2000 :

The announcement of the National Population Policy 2000 by the NDA government in February 2000 and setting up of a National Population Commission, under the strong and promising leadership of then Prime Minister Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee and comprising eminent persons from all walks of life on May 11, 2000 reflected the deep commitment of the government to population stabilization programme.

The National Population Policy 2000 (NPP 2000) affirms the commitment of the government towards voluntary and informed choice and consent of citizens while availing of productive health care services, and continuation of the target free approach in administering family planning services. The NPP 2000 provides a policy frame work for advancing goals and prioritizing strategies during the next decade, to meet the reproductive and child health needs of the people of India, and to achieve net replacement levels (TFR) by 2010. It is based upon the need to meet and simultaneously address issues of child survival, maternal health, and contraception, while increasing outreach and coverage of a comprehensive package of reproductive and child health services by government, industry and the voluntary non-government sector working in partnership.


The immediate objective of the NPP 2000 is to address the unmet needs for contraception, health care infrastructure, and health personnel and to provide integrated service delivery for basic reproductive and child health care. The medium term objective is to bring the TFR to replacement levels by 2010, through vigorous implementation of inter- sectoral operational strategies. The long-term objective is to achieve a stable population by 2045, at a level consistent with the requirements of sustainable economic growth, social development and environmental protection.

In pursuance of these objectives, the following National Socio-Demographic Goals to be achieved in each case by 2010 are formulated:

          1.   Address the unmet needs for basic reproductive and child health services, supplies and infrastructure .

          2.  Make School Education upto the age of 14 free and compulsory, and reduce drop outs at primary and secondary School levels to below 20 percent for both boys and girls.

          3.   Reduce infant mortality rate to below 30 per 1000 live births.

          4.   Reduce maternal mortality rate to below 100 per 100,000 live births

          5.   Achieve universal immunization of children against all vaccine preventable diseases.

          6.   Promote delayed marriage for girls, not earlier then age 18 and preferably after 20 years of age.

          7.   Achieve 80 percent institutional deliveries and 100 percent deliveries by trained persons.

          8.  Achieve universal access to information/counselling and services for fertility regulation and contraception with a wide basket of choices.

          9.   Achieve 100 percent registration of births, deaths, marriage and pregnancy.

        10.  Contain the spread of Acquired Immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and promote greater integration between the management of reproductive tract infection (RTI) and sexually transmitted infections (ST) and the National AIDS Control Organization.

        11.   Prevent and control communicable diseases.

        12. Integrate Indian system of Medicine (ISM) in the provision of reproductive and child health services, and in reaching out to households.

        13.   Promote vigorously the small family norm to achieve replacement levels of TFR.

        14.  Bring about convergence in implementation of related social sector programmes so that family welfare becomes a people centred programmed.

If the NPP 2000 is fully implemented, we anticipate a population of 1107 million ( 110 crore) in 2010, instead of 1162 million (116 corer) projected by the technical group on population Projections:

However, in the changing political scenario it will be seen how the New UPA government will effectively follow up the deep commitment laid by the NDA government.

To achieve the above mentioned national socio economic goals for 2010, 12 strategic themes have been pursued in “stand along” or “ inter sectoral programmes”.

These are as

          1.   Decentralized planning and programme implementation,

          2.   Convergence of service delivery at Village level,

          3.   Empowering women for improved Health and Nutrition,

          4.   Child health and survival,

          5.   meeting the unmet needs for & family welfare, services

          6.   reaching out to the under served population groups such as urban slum dwellers, tribal communities hill areas population, displaced and migrant population; adolescents;

          7.   making use of diverse health care providers

          8.   collaboration with private sector and NGOs,

          9.   mainstreaming of Indian systems of medicine and Homeopathy,

        10.   promotion of research on contraceptive technology and reproductive and child health,

        11.   Providing for older persons above 60 years,

        12.   Informations, education and communications.

India’s Demographic Achievement

Half a century after formulating the national family welfare programme, India has

           l   Reduced crude birth rate (CBR) from 40.8 (1951) to 26.4(1998,SRS);

           l   Halved the infant mortality rate (IMR) from 146 per 1000 live birth (1951) to 72 per 1000 live birth (1998, SRS);

           l   Quadrupted the couple protection rate (CPR) from 10.4 percent (1971) to 44 percent (1999);

           l   Reduce crude death rate (CDR) from 25 (1951) to 9.0 (1998, SRS);

           l   Added 25 years to life expectancy from 37 years to 62 years;

           l   Achieved nearly universal awareness of the need for and methods of family planning and

           l   Reduced total fertility (TFR) rate from 6.0 (1951) to 3.3 (1997, SRS)

The population of India in 2001 has almost tripled since 1941. The growth rate of population peaked at 2.24 percent per annum in the decade of the seventies and has been gradually declining thereafter, though in absolute numbers population continues to grow at an alarming rate. The rate of growth has been less than 2 percent per annum in the period 1991-2001.

Some important Demographic features of Indian population

India is a country of striking demographic diversity. Substantial differences are visible between states in the achievements of basic demographic indices. This has led to significant disparity in current population size and the potential to influence population increases during 1996-2016. There are wide inter-state, male – female, and rural – urban disparities in outcomes and impacts. These difference stem largely from poverty, illiteracy, and inadequate access to health and family welfare services, which co-exist and reinforce each-other. In many parts, the widespread health infrastructure is not responsive.

During the decade 1991-2001, the highest growth rate in population among the states was that of Nagaland at an extra ordinary 4.97 percent. This was followed by Manipur at 2.63 percent and Meghalaya at 2.62 percent. The growth rate continues to be high for the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. The population situation in these states calls for urgent attention. Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman Dise had rate of growth of over 4 percent. These however could be attributed largely to substantial migration. States like Kerela, Tamil Nadu and Goa have registered a substantial decline in the growth rate in the decade 1991-2001. These states also recorded rates much lower than the national average. The lowest rate was that of Kerela at 0.90 percent, followed by Tamil Nadu at 1.06 percent.

A total fertility rate (TFR) = 2.1 is considered to be the replacement level of fertility, which needs to be achieved in all states for population stabilization . Looking ahead, it is instructive to compare the total fertility rates for 1998 and projection of TFRS for the states and Union territories for the year 2007.

All states will have TFRs less than three by 2007 except the newly formed states of Chanttisgarh and Jharkhand .

Population stabilization and human development.

Poverty persists under conditions where the human resource is under valued. In the 2003 Human development Report of UNDP India ranked 127 among 174 Nations in Human Development Index (HDI). Life expectancy at birth, adult literacy, School enrolment and percapita income are the criteria used for estimating HDI. Human Development is a process enlarging people’s choices – in principle, these choices can be infinite and change over time. But at all level of Development, three essential ones are for people for lead long and healthy life, to acquired knowledge and to have access to resources needed for better standard of living. If these essential choices are not available many other opportunities remain inaccessible. Human Development has two sides : The formation of Human Capabilities – such improved health, Knowledge and skills – and the use people make of their acquired capability Development must, therefore, be more than just an expansion of income and wealth. Its focus must be people.

Education : Education is important in the development process for two reason. First because education can be viewed as an end in itself as it improves perception and quality of life of people. Secondly education leads to formation of Human capital and is an important investment for the development process. In India ; education has been found to be one of the most powerful indicator of fertility decline both at the National and regional level. Educational status influences socio- economic development as its accelerates social status attainment, provides exposure to ideas of wider choices of economic and social concern and off familial commitment and providing thus to be conditioning factors which limits family size. To be precise educational development works as a triggering mechanism to delay marriage, natural corollary of which is to limit the number of Children. Women education along with an increased age at marriage, and their work participation has the strongest relationship to the adoption of family planning. It has been found that total fertility rate of literate women is lower than that of the illiterate women in rural as well as urban areas.

It is seen that high literacy states are having low fertility rate and low literate state like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh Utter Pradesh, Rajasthan, etc. are having high fertility rate. Hence, education has been found to be one of the most powerful indicator of fertility decline in India.

Gender Balance : Sex ratio (Measured in terms of the number of Women per 1000 men), is representative of gender inequality in India. Biologically, the sex ratio should be in favour of women, and it is so, in almost all countries of the world. However, a pronounced skew in sex ratios in favour men has been a feature of most states in India. This is largely attributed to lower status of women in Indian society, which contribute to early marriages, lower literacy levels, higher fertility and mortality levels, and affects adversely progresses in human development. In 1951, there were as many as ten states and union territories in India that had sex ratio in favour of women. By 2001, only Kerela and Pondicherry have a sex ratio in favour of female.

Health : Improvement of Health status of the population has been one of the major thrust area in social development programmes of the country. Two basic indicators used in analyzing the health status are infant mortality rate and life expectancy at birth.

Infant mortality rate (IMR) : the IMR, measure in terms of death per thousand of children below 6 years, is considered to be a sensitive indicator of not only the health status of the population but also the level of human development in the context of education, economic conditions, nutrition, etc. Poverty, malnutrition, a decline in breast-feeding and inadequacy and lack of sanitation are all associated with high infant mortality. High infant mortality and high fertility are related concepts. There is evidence that in the short run infant mortality reduces over all population growth, other things remaining constant. However, the indirect and long run effect of reduced mortality is probably to reduce fertility by more than a compensating amount, as with greater certainty about child survival, parents reduce “ insurance birth” and shift to child quality investments. Almost all the states in India have registered declining infant morality rate over the period 1971 to 1998, yet some states have done better than the others.

Population control is not just a matter of distributing condoms. Rural masses need to be made aware of the problems associated with large families and the benefits of having of small family. The poor human development indices – education, gender disparities, malnutrition, growing lack of opportunities contribute to run away population. Family welfare measures coupled with human resource development is the best way to stabilize population. Population stabilization is multi- sectoral endeavour, which require co-ordination at all levels of Govt. and society. In the new millennium Nations are judged by the well being of their population, good health, education, nutrition , civil and political liberties are the factors which determine the well- being of the masses. To achieve the socio-demographic goals as mentioned in the NPP 2000, political will as well as mass participation is a must. Population stabilization cannot be achieved at a single day. But yet more than 50 years has passed after independence. However, there is religious barriers also to reduce fertility.

Spread of literacy and education, increasing availability of affordable reproductive and child health services, convergence of service delivery at Village levels, participation of women in paid work force, together with a steady, equitable, improvement in family income, will induce population stabilization. Population stabilization and the socio – demographic goals as laid in NPP 2000 will be achieved if NPP 2000 is pursued as a national movement.

Reference :

     1.   Census of India, Government of India.

     2.   Population Data, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, GOI

     3.   Sample Registration system 1998.

     4.   National Family Health Survey, 1998-99.

     5.   National Commission on population, 2007, planning commission GOI.

     6.   Government of India, Famine enquiry commission, final Report, 1945

     7.   Plan Documents, Five year plans Documents, Planning Commission, GOI

     8.   National Population Policy, 2000, GOI.


Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

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