The Editor- in- chief,
The Hindu


Justice Krishna Iyer’s advocacy (The Hindu, Aug 13th 2008) of punishment for violation of the 2- child norm, and “penal infliction on culpable parents’ is unexpected and unfortunate.

There is substantial data and evidence which links family size to development parameters. The 1980s slogan that “development is the best contraceptive” is as relevant today, given the high levels of infant mortality rates at 57 per 1000 live births, as then. Amongst SC/STs, it is disproportionately high at 66.4 and 62.1 respectively. It is estimated that the IMR in the poorest 20% of the population is 2.5 times higher than that in the richest 20 % of the population. (70.4: 29.2 per thousand births). The unmet need for family planning is 18.2 in the lowest quintile, as compared to 8.1 in the highest quintile. This clearly shows that for a significant section of poor women, lack of access to contraceptive measures is one of the major contributors to increased fertility. Thus, penal measures are a means to punish the poor for their poverty.

We uphold the rights of Indian women to safe and effective contraception. Fertility rates in India have been steadily declining, especially in states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu etc, which have better development parameters. Only a combination of better levels of education, decline in maternal and infant mortality rates, and better access to health services, including safe contraception, and improved gender equity can make a choice of a small family a realizable goal. In the absence of these, any attempts to target women, or go in for disincentives and penalize parents would amount to an assault on their democratic rights. The 2- child norm is also contributing to sex – selective abortion and a serious fall in child sex ratios in a context of son preference in our country.

Sadly, Justice Iyer’s views on population control contradict his often expressed concern for the rights of the poor.  

14 August 2008