The year was 1954 – on a windy, wet evening of February, a male child was born – the youngest sword bearer of the Brahmin clan residing in Bamunpara, Bilasipara (Dhubri district). He is the 8th child of his parents – the youngest maternal uncle or “mama” of the 3 kids born to his eldest ‘didi’. The entire Bamunpara rejoiced for Kundalata was too frail for childbirth as she was stricken with leukoderma, despite which her older husband, Rudranath (6th male child of himself of 13 kids of his parents) had refused to give her up. This is not a work of fiction – Bamunpara is the witness of many such joyous births as well as still births, pertaining to only one clan! Why only Bamunpara – many well-educated families (irrespective of religion, caste, creed, color), residing in different corners of Assam had numerous offspring at that time – a fact they rejoiced at that time, without being conscious of the upcoming consequences in the future.
This one example is enough to highlight the fact that population explosion in India in general, and Assam in particular, is not a manifestation of a particular group of minority citizens; the seeds of this were sown way back in history. Obviously, lack of education, awareness, rational thinking etc. were the prime causes of it – the result of which we, the survivors of the present, are witnessing. Though the Govt. of India has been preaching the slogan of “Hum do humare do” since eternity, there was no strict implementation of this oath as a 2-child policy upto January 2020 and the saffron ruling party in Assam is following suit a year later. This announcement comes at a time when the fertility rate in India is already low – 2.22 births per female as of 2018, with Assam having 1.9 per female as of 2020 (http://rchiips.org/nfhs/factsheet_NFHS-5.shtml). So is adoption of this policy, particularly in a mid-pandemic situation, suitable?
There is no denying of the fact that decrease in population come with the advantages of abundant resources, reduction of unemployment, quality services provided by the Govt. end, as well as decrease of stress for parents in terms of availability of basic necessities. But we are already in a stage where families, especially women, are pleading for a child in their womb – running from doctors to quacks to self-acclaimed God-man! Increase in the age of marriage (both for men and women), stressed and hectic schedule, lifestyle related disorders, hormonal imbalances, heavy intake of caffeine and other beverages etc. have contributed to the decrease fertility, coupled with increasing numbers of miscarriages and still births ,as evident from a survey carried out in 2006 (https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(05)00893-9/fulltext). With medical science developing exponentially, couples tend to resort to IVF and other assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs) to conceive a child; these hormone based methods tend to induce pregnancy, or in simple words super fertilize a woman, due to which they have increased chances of multiple births i.e twins to quadruplets in 1 pregnancy! So where will the 2-policy come into play in these circumstances?
Denying the benefits of Govt. schemes, denying the eligibility to apply for Govt. jobs, along with penalty imposition doesn’t really solve the existing problem of population explosion. What is required presently is to have a proper, rational, and informative implementation of sex education in the early years of educational curriculum, with suitable demonstrations of birth control methods. The youth of India today is not scared or shy, rather highly dynamic and productive – it’s time to make them aware about population control, coupled with, sustainable resource utilization so that we can have a cleaner, greener, and safer Assam, as well as India for our future generations. Let us embrace that “SEX is NOT a SECRET, rather it is a NATURAL, BIOLOGICAL phenomenon!
Dr. Ishani Chakrabartty, Assistant Professor, University of Science and Technology Meghalaya