Now that about a week has passed since the Uttar Pradesh government’s population policy was announced, it is time for stocktaking as the euphoria of those concerned about the proliferation of Muslims, causing a skew in Indian demographics, has subsided. Given the rebellious nature as well as an apparently sinister agenda of the Islamic community, a law meant to check population growth will likely affect all communities, which have long taken to family planning without needing Sanjay Gandhi-like coercion anyway, but Muslims. When they cannot see their own benefit in medical campaigns ranging from pulse polio to coronavirus-restraining vaccination, they will certainly not let an Indian law come in the way of their objective to occupy as much space in the country as they can. The incentives for small families in the Yogi Adityanath government’s policy like being able to contest in elections or apply for public sector jobs — and then get increments while employed and a higher provident fund on retirement — will not prove motivating enough as the economic stratum of Muslims that breeds heavily hardly seeks these opportunities. Limiting rationed food to just four per family appears constraining, but a Muslim child that parents cannot take care of is cared for by the ummah in both legitimate and illicit ways. This is why rebates in bills, taxes and loan repayments will not be factors either. Finally, while the absence of any relaxation for polygamous people appears to be aimed at Muslims, that a man with four wives has more children is a myth not supported by mathematical and practical calculations. A definitive blow to the Muslim proclivity to multiply in numbers would be depriving those reproducing like insects of the right to vote. Because that means hampering their design to determine the political direction the country takes. But that is beyond the jurisdiction of a state government; even the union can hardly help, as the constitution will not allow any fiddling with the universal adult franchise.
As for controlling population on the whole, while it has been disconcerting for decades that the country has had more stomachs to fill than the wealth generated by its working section can afford, the country that is more populous than India, which struggled as much until it turned to state capitalism, China is a case worth studying. Besides the four-two-one problem caused by Beijing’s one-child diktat — making the earning man per family take care of his parents, parents-in-law, himself, his wife and the child — the army of China is staring at severe inadequacy of manpower, as the youth who have grown a lust for money do not want to risk their lives in battles on the border. Neither Indians can handle the first issue nor can India’s security apparatus tackle a situation the PLA faces, as there is a paucity of officers in the ranks of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force too despite the fact that this country is still not comfortable embracing a turn-rich-unabashedly public mindset.
The ultimate issue is philosophical. As per Deendayal Upadhyaya’s theory of integral humanism, society must prevail over the individual. Of course, the state is absolutely within its rights to deny facilities to irresponsibly procreating people, for they are the resources of the state that are stretched thin. However, any BJP government thinking along the lines of the late RSS ideologue for population control is dubitable. Administration must excise duress from such a policy. There can be situations where a couple decides to have more children, which the state cannot envisage or foresee at the stage of legislation. A constriction by the state in such scenarios will be unfair. People may turn litigious as often as women do while confronting peculiar situations due to the law on medical termination of pregnancy despite the fact that India has one of the most progressive laws on abortion.