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A novel road map for population control in India

"It is possible to stop population growth in a very short time by financially rewarding poor young women to delay pregnancies. No other existing scheme can match the effectiveness of this approach." – H.K. Gupta.

By PPFI Team

September 20, 2009

This is one of those ideas which turn conventional wisdom on its head and yet are perfectly in sync with the nature’s ways. More importantly, the idea provides a possible solution to one of the most difficult to solve problems India, and the world, is facing – the human population growth.

The idea is the brainchild of Hridayesh Kant Gupta, a US-based IT consultant who even put in $40,000 from his own pocket to fund what he called the Project Small Family (PSF). His motto: don’t waste money on processes—reward only results. And the results that came out of the PSF pilot project, involving a group of 390 women in the tribal regions in Seoni and Chhindwara districts of Madhya Pradesh, were outstanding. 

During the trial period (2003-2004), the group managed to reduce number of pregnancies among the participants by 30% as compared to regional pregnancy rate. The most outstanding features of the pilot project, as outlined by Gupta, were

- There was no medical help provided.
- There was no teaching.
- There was no preaching.
- The scheme was voluntary.
- And it was not a miracle.

All we did, says Gupta, was get them interested by creating a beneficial situation for them. The following is a description of what Gupta and the PSF team did to achieve the seemingly impossible outcome – 
390 women in the age group between 16 and 35 years were enrolled for the programme. All they had to do was to show up once every three months at the designated PSF kiosk, pay Rs 5 to the kiosk operator and get themselves checked for being pregnancy free. If found free, they were paid at the rate of Rs 250 per month which was credited into their bank accounts. 
The above scheme may sound simple but the queue of women waiting to join the programme testifies that the pilot project has been hugely successful. Cynics may argue over various issues related to the projects but Gupta provides convincing answers to all of them.
  • Giving away approximately Rs 50,000 to a single woman over a period of 15 years is an enormous subsidy – Gupta says that India spends approximately US$ 60 billion every year as part of its general budget on planned and non-planned items. Given that the population of India is one billion at present, it amounts to $60 (approximately Rs 3000) per person per year. He adds that since the women of reproductive age group in the marginalized sections of the society are saving this amount of money for the country by delaying pregnancies and giving birth to fewer children, government should share the money saved with them. In the overall analysis, it would work out much cheaper for the government as compared to the situation where the women had given birth to more children and government would have to provide for their food, shelter, education, health and other basic needs.
  • About the chances of mal-practices on the part of kiosk operators during age and pregnancy verification – Use of appropriate software and face recognition and finger print matching techniques will ensure maximum transparency and little chance of fraud. 
  • About the participants providing incorrect names – It is in the interest of the participants to provide correct names as the money that is given to them is credited in their bank accounts.  
  • If prosperous persons join the scheme to avail benefits targeted at poor women – Publishing the name of the beneficiaries will ensure that prosperous people will not join the scheme due to a possibility of social disgrace. Also, the amount of money given is too small and unattractive for the rich and the well-off.  
  • Duplicate registration – Face recognition techniques and finger print matching techniques will prevent this from happening. 

The biggest advantage of the scheme, says Gupta, is that it targets and empowers poor women and the girl child who constitute the most vulnerable section of the society. The scheme involves no coercion and the participants have complete choice over the method, from abstinence to abortion, to delay childbirth. He has given detailed presentations to various government agencies but his ideas received lukewarm response. He is confidant, though, that the scheme, if replicated at a larger scale, will bring desired results in a very short time-period. 

[Our view - The governments in India, both at the centre and the state, must give a serious thought to this proposal since all the efforts undertaken by them, from forced sterilizations to disbursal of condoms and contraceptive pills to media campaigns  aimed at generating greater awareness among the people have failed to curb the population growth. It has the potential to completely transform the scenario of increasing population within a decade. The best part of the scheme is that apart from encouraging women to participate in population control, it also promotes their well being. To ensure greater success, the age group of targeted women could be made 15-45 years. Government should not view the nearly one lakh rupees to be paid to the women during this 30 years period as a mere subsidy for population control but as an expenditure incurred in ensuring a better quality of life for them.]

For detailed information about the scheme, please visit - http://projectsmallfamily.org/

Contact H K Gupta at - hkgupta@projectsmallfamily.org

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