More than half of the elected representatives in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly have more than two children, according to information available on the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly website analysed by Scroll.in. This includes as many as 50% of the MLAs from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
In recent days, BJP leaders in Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Karnataka have suggested that population control measures must be imposed. Some of these politicians are expected to introduce private members’ bills proposing such a policy in Parliament during the Monsoon session.
The most specific of these proposals so far is the draft put together by the UP law commission titled Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilisation and Welfare) Bill, 2021. It includes a provision to deny government jobs, promotions in government services and government-sponsored welfare schemes to anyone who, after the law is passed, “procreates more than two children”. It would also bar them from standing from local body elections.
An analysis of Uttar Pradesh’s MLAs, based on information from the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly website, found that the majority of them currently have more than two children. This includes 10 of the 23 ministers in the state cabinet and half of the ruling party’s MLAs.
Overall, 27% of Uttar Pradesh MLAs have three children, 32% have two children and 9% have one child.
The representatives with more than two children may not be affected if the bill were to be passed in its current form since it does not apply to MLAs and MPs. But the data offers some context at a time when the law commission says, “It is necessary to control, stabilise the population of the state for promotion of sustainable development with more equitable distribution.”
The Uttar Pradesh health minister Jai Pratap Singh told Scroll.in that the draft was not prepared by his department and claimed that the government had nothing to do with the law commission. “There is no Bill anywhere which is in the making or going to be passed in the Vidhan Sabha for the time being,” Singh said.
He added that the government had on July 11 released a population policy for the state for 2021 and 2030 that was different from the draft Bill. “It has nothing to do with the law commission,” Singh said.
Other MLAs did not respond to phone calls or declined to comment on the matter.
Party wise break-up
The state’s legislative assembly website provides the information for 396 assembly segments out of 403. At least 52% of the total number of MLAs have more than two children.
The BJP won 304 seats, of which 50% of its MLAs have more than two children. Of the Samajwadi Party’s 49 MLAs, 55% also have more than two children.
Some MLAs have more than four children, according to the website. Roshan Lal Verma, BJP MLA from Tilhar, and Hari Ram, Apna Dal MLA from Duddhi, have eight children each. BJP MLA Madhuri Verma and Samajwadi Party MLA Rafiq Ansari have seven children each. Eight BJP MLAs have six children each: they include the state minister of excise Ram Naresh Agnihotri. So do one MLA each from the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Nishad party.
The information of 23 MLAs and those elected through the legislative council was not available on the website. Others, such as Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and BJP MLA Suresh Khanna, are unmarried.
The population policy released by the Uttar Pradesh government on Sunday plans to reduce the total fertility rate from its current 2.7 to 1.7 by 2030, The Hindu reported. It also aims to reduce infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate.
The draft Population Bill, meanwhile, states that those with more than two children will be barred from accessing government welfare schemes. It plans to limit to just four the number of people on a family’s ration card allowed to get subsidised food from the public distribution system. It also bars people with more than two children from contesting local body elections and makes them ineligible from applying for government jobs, getting promotions, or availing of government subsidies.
It incentivises the two-child norm for public servants who undergo a voluntary sterilisation by granting two additional promotions and a subsidy to buy a plot of land, among other things.
For the general public, people who follow the norm would be granted housing loans, rebates on water and electricity bills, maternity or paternity leave with full salary and allowances. It adds that Rs 1 lakh will be given to couples below the poverty line who have only one child if it is a girl and Rs 80,000 if the child is a boy.
The draft also outlines responsibilities for the state government in expanding population control measures such as setting up a state population fund, introducing a curriculum on population control in schools, spreading awareness of family planning methods and distributing contraceptives at government health centres.
However, the draft has been criticised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a right-wing Hindu organisation. The Bill could lead to “furthering of the imbalance between different communities” and “contraction of the population”, said Alok Kumar, the working president of the organisation, in a letter to the state law commission, The Indian Express reported.
Hindutva groups have been fanning anxiety over claims that the Muslims will outnumber Hindus in India, though experts point out that there is no basis to this conspiracy theory.
Ravi Kishen, a member of Parliament from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, is reportedly set to introduce a Private Member’s Bill on population control during the upcoming Monsoon Session. Kishen’s member profile on the Lok Sabha website shows that he has four children.
In December last year, the Central government told the Supreme Court that it would not implement a two-child policy or adopt coercive population control methods.
Experts have repeatedly pointed that coercive measures would be counterproductive and that India needed more awareness about family planning instead of a law. The fertility rate of the country has fallen from 3.4 children per woman, aged 15 years to 49 years, in 1992 to 1993 to 2.2 children in 2015 to 2016, according to data from the National Family Health Survey 4. This is projected to fall to 1.8 by 2030, without any coercive law.
With inputs from Shoaib Daniyal.