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Could a two-child policy work in India?

India is set to become the world’s most populous country. But do we need legislation to slow down population growth?

Could a two-child policy work in India?

India is set to become the world’s most populous country. But do we need legislation to slow down population growth?

Could a two-child policy work in India?

India is set to become the world’s most populous country. But do we need legislation to slow down population growth?

Could a two-child policy work in India?

India is set to become the world’s most populous country. But do we need legislation to slow down population growth?

The Uttar Pradesh government is proposing a legislation to discourage couples from having more than two children.

On Saturday 10th July, the state revealed proposals for a two-child policy. It is the second state to do so, following Assam’s proposed new laws that were outlined last month.

Uttar Pradesh has good reason to think about population growth. It is India’s most populous state, with 240 million inhabitants – that’s more than countries like Pakistan, Brazil, or Nigeria. If Uttar Pradesh were an independent nation, it would be the fifth largest in the world. It’s also one of the poorest parts of the country; income per capita is less than half the national average.

According to the bill, it comes down to the "limited ecological and economic resources at hand.”  Given the impossibility of continued exponential growth, “it is necessary and urgent that the provision of the basic necessities of human life are accessible to all citizens". And that means slowing down the rate of population growth.

Of course, if families choose to have more children then nothing can be done about it. But the law specifies some real deterrents that should encourage many parents to stop at two: those with more will not be entitled to any government benefits or subsidies, and would be banned from applying to state government jobs. At the same time, public servants who adhere to the two-child limit will be entitled to benefits, including a year’s maternity or paternity leave at full salary.

The argument of limited resources seems to make sense. The more people there are, the harder it becomes to ensure good living standards for all. But can it ever be ethical to limit people’s choice to have children?

And could there be a hidden political agenda involved?

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