Giriraj Singh Sanjay Gandhi II

Patna: Stopping short of Sanjay Gandhi’s infamous castration drive during the Emergency years, Union minister Giriraj Singh on Thursday expressed alarm over the “population explosion” in the country since Independence and favoured disenfranchisement of those who sired more than two children.

The BJP leader from Bihar known for making controversial remarks, shared a graphic on his official Twitter handle on World Population Day which showed that India’s population grew by a staggering 366% between 1947 and 2019 as against only 113% rise in sparsely populated US.

Singh, the Minister of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, wrote in Hindi, “In India, population explosion is disturbing the balance of economy, social harmony and resources. One of the reasons (for failure to check it) is dhaarmikvyavadhan (religious obstacles),” apparently hinting at Muslims.

Several leaders of the right-wing in this country have often, rightly or wrongly, blamed Muslims for the spurt in the country’s population.

Striking an alarmist note, the Cabinet minister warned: “India appears to be heading like in 1947 towards another a ‘saanskritikvibhajan’ (partition in the name of culture). All political parties will have to come forward for a birth control law.”

Later, Singh told some news channels in Delhi that strong measures must be in place to check population explosion. “I hold the view that those who have more than two children should be stripped of their voting rights. And this provision must be applied to all communities. No exemption should be made for any religious group just because it insists that its tenets disapprove of birth control measures, he said.

Meanwhile, The Times of India today published a report saying that India’s fertility rate now stands at 2.2%, which is quite close to the “replacement fertility rate” (RFR) of 2.1%. The RFR is a rate of fertility equal to that of mortality, which ensures that the population of the country stays stable.

However, it is not clear whether the RFR has been achieved by Hindu women alone increasingly demanding birth control measures while women in Muslim families do not have a say in the matter.

The BJP leader’s views met with disapproval from the usual suspects. The opposition RJD-Congress combine in Bihar slammed Singh.

Bihar RJD president Ram Chandra Purbe termed Singh’s comments an example of ochhirajneeti (petty politics) since it appeared to blame the minorities for the ballooning population. “From where does the Union minister get such fanciful ideas? Can he point out any provision in the Constitution under which a person can be disenfranchised for having more than a specified number of children?” asked Congress MLC Prem Chandra Mishra.