Population explosion is 'root cause' of many problems in India: Plea in SC

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New Delhi, Jul 3 (PTI) Population explosion is the 'root cause' of many problems in the country but the Centre has not taken appropriate steps to enact a stringent law till date to curb the menace, a plea filed in the Supreme Court said.

In a rejoinder to the Centre's response to a PIL, BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay said the Centre has unequivocally opposed forcing family planning on its people and any coercion to have a certain number of children as it is counter-productive and leads to demographic distortions.

Upadhyay has challenged a Delhi High Court order that dismissed a plea seeking certain steps, including the two-child norm, to control the country's growing population.

The plea stated that 'Population Control and Family Planning' is part of List-III of Seventh Schedule (Entry 20A) in the Constitution and hence the Centre can make stringent rules-regulations to control population explosion but it has not taken appropriate steps to enact a stringent law till date.

'The facts constituting the cause of action accrued on December 10, 2020, when in a written reply, Health Ministry said that Centre is against forcing family planning and won't take coercive action,' the plea filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey said.

Upadhyay submitted in his plea that population explosion is also the root cause of the pitiable condition of the country's international ranking in various fields.

'We are ranked 103rd in the Global Hunger Index, 43rd in Suicide Rate, 168th in Literacy Rate, 133rd in World Happiness Index, 125th in Gender Discrimination, among others,' the plea said.

Contending that population explosion is the basic cause of more than 50 per cent problems of the country, the plea said effective control measure is the need of the hour.

The Centre had earlier told the apex court that it is unequivocally against forcing family planning on its people and any coercion to have a certain number of children is counter-productive and leads to demographic distortions.

In an affidavit filed in the top court, the health ministry had told the apex court that the family welfare programme in the country is voluntary in nature, which enables couples to decide the size of their family and adopt family planning methods best suited to them, according to their choice and without any compulsion.

The ministry had said that 'public health' is a state subject and the state governments must lead the process of health sector reforms in a suitable and sustainable manner to protect the common people from health hazards.

'Improvement in the health sector can be effectively led by the state government with effective monitoring and specific intervention to control and regulate the implementation process of the guidelines and schemes in a proper perspective,' it said.

'The answering respondent no. (ministry) plays a supportive and facilitative role in achieving the health care reforms and outcomes. It is reiterated that the answering respondent no. 1 merely acts as a facilitator for providing accessible and affordable health care through state-led reforms in the health sector,' it had said.

The ministry had said that as far as implementation of the guidelines and schemes in the states is concerned, it does not have any direct role and it is the prerogative of the respective state governments to implement the schemes as per the prescribed guidelines.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had told the top court that India has adopted a comprehensive and holistic National Population Policy (NPP), 2000, with clearly articulated objectives, strategic themes and operational strategies.

The National Health Policy (NHP), 2017 provides for a policy guidance to inform, clarify, strengthen and prioritise the role of the government in shaping health systems in all its dimensions, it had said.

The Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, 1994, to which India is a signatory, is unequivocally against coercion in family planning.

The apex court had earlier sought the Centre's reply on a plea challenging a Delhi High Court order that dismissed a PIL seeking certain steps, including two-child norm, to control the country's rising population.

The appeal has challenged the September 3 high court order, which said it was for Parliament and the state legislatures to enact laws and not for the court.

The PIL said the high court failed to appreciate that the right to clean air, drinking water, health, peaceful sleep, shelter, livelihood, and education guaranteed under Articles 21 and 21A of the Constitution could not be secured to all citizens without controlling the population explosion.

The plea in the high court had claimed that the population of India had 'marched ahead' of China, as about 20 per cent of Indians did not have Aadhaar and therefore, were not accounted for, and there were also crores of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis living illegally in the country.

It claimed that 'population explosion is also the root cause of corruption', apart from being a contributory factor behind heinous crimes such as rape and domestic violence.

It also held population explosion responsible for pollution and the dearth of resources and jobs. PTI PKS SJK SMN

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