Lakshadweep’s proposed two-child norm for panchayat polls ‘flawed’

It should take steps to contain further cut in Total Fertility Rate: Population Foundation of India

The Lakshadweep administration’s bid to impose a two-child norm defies all logic as the Union Territory (UT) has a low Total Fertility Rate (TFR) and an ageing population, says the Population Foundation of India.

The UT has proposed a new regulation that makes any person with more than two children ineligible to contest panchayat polls. Neither can a person with more than two children be a member of a gram panchayat.

“The proposed regulation is suicidal and defies all logic,” says executive director, Population Foundation of India, Poonam Muttreja. “Instead of imposing stringent population control measures, Lakshadweep needs to take steps to contain further reduction in TFR. Policies of enforcing a two-child norm, which we have seen before in other States too, come bundled with other gender-unfriendly policies and mindsets that burden women disproportionately.”

According to the National Health and Family Survey – 5 (NFHS) 2019-2020, Lakshadweep had a TFR of 1.4, which was far less than the national average of 2.2 and was a cause for concern instead. The overall population growth rate for the UT had also dropped to 6.3% during 2001-2011 from 17.19% in 1991-2001.

‘Rise in unsafe abortions’

Even for the States that have high fertility rates, there was no evidence that a two-child policy was effective. A five State study by Nirmala Buch, former senior IAS officer, found that in the States that adopted the policy, there was a rise in sex-selective and unsafe abortions; men divorced their wives to run for local body elections, and families gave up children for adoption to avoid disqualification.

“The proposed panchayat rules could also distort Lakshadweep’s sex ratio of 1,187 females for 1000 males [NFHS 5]. Lakshadweep will soon have an ageing population and experience labour shortages. This would increase the elderly dependency ratio and intensify the burden of non-communicable diseases, requiring significant financial resources to support the elderly and address their health care needs,” Ms. Muttreja says.

The Lakshadweep administration must instead invest in overall social development, health and education with a focus on gender equity, economic development and access to family planning services, irrespective of culture or religion, she adds.

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