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The 2-child norm

Assam Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma’s announcement made on Friday that his Government would strictly follow the two-child norm to select beneficiaries for all welfare schemes in the days to come is a very bold step.

Himanta

Sentinel Digital Desk

Assam Chief Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma's announcement made on Friday that his Government would strictly follow the two-child norm to select beneficiaries for all welfare schemes in the days to come is a very bold step. The two-child policy, which was first mooted by the BJP-led Government of Assam in 2017, is intended at bringing under control the burgeoning population of the state, which has been hindering the overall development. According to the Chief Minister, since the State Government has already started implementing the population control policy, and hence, selection of beneficiaries for the various welfare schemes of the Government would be now carried out based on the two-child norm. The Chief Minister has however said that the Scheduled Tribe communities and the tea tribe community are being exempted from this. It is worth recalling that the Assam Government had drafted the two-child norm as a logical progression of the "Population and Women Empowerment Policy of Assam" drafted in 2017. According to it, sustainable development is not only inextricably linked to population and economic growth but is also inversely proportional to the latter. A whole range of issues – from food security, maternal and child health, women's education and employability, ageing, urbanization and migration, emerging development challenges such as financial and economic issues (volatile energy situation, food prices and unemployment), environmental issues including climate change, the shrinking base of agricultural land and negative ecological impact – are, at the end of the day related to population. The more the population of the state, the more is the negative impact on these issues. Moreover, while the population of Assam increased from 2.66 crore in 2001 to 3.12 crore in 2011, the state's population density has increased from 340 per square km in 2001 to 398 per sq km in 2011. The national average is 382. That Assam's population is alarming can be also gauged from the fact that while India's average per household/family size is 4.8, that of Assam stands at 5.5. One of the suspected reasons behind this is child marriage; there are high incidences of marriage in the 14-16 age group among girls and in the 16-20 age group among boys. According to the Population and Women Empowerment Policy, the incidence of such underage marriage is most prominent in char areas, followed by the tea belts and in some tribal areas. Going through the Population and Women Empowerment Policy of the Assam Government, the existence of religious prejudices and conservative values against family planning is high among certain communities. While only a tiny fraction of men of these communities opt to have vasectomies, male sterilization is viewed as culturally unacceptable among these communities. Moreover, there are also certain social beliefs, customs and prejudices that stand in the way of endorsement of progressive messages relating to girls' education, ante-natal and maternal care and childbirth, all these factors finally hampering family planning. It is in the backdrop of these realities that Chief Minister Dr Sarma has announced his government's decision that individuals with more than two children will not be eligible for government jobs after January 1, 2021. More importantly, once the Assam Population Policy is strictly implemented, only families which do not have more than two children will be eligible for availing benefits under various welfare schemes like the Arunodoy and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, etc. It is also pertinent to note that Chief Minister Dr Sarma had only the previous week also drawn a nexus between population boom among certain particular communities and encroachment on government land and land belonging to the Xatras and other indigenous religious and traditional institutions. The Chief Minister had last week also asked leaders of the All India United Minority Front (AIUDF) and All Assam Minority Students' Union (AAMSU) to motivate the immigrant Muslim community to adopt a "decent family planning" practice so that Assam does not have to lag on the socio-economic and development front. It is a matter of significance that Chief Minister Dr Sarma has a clear idea about demography and its intricate relationship with development, which has enabled him to take a bold and futuristic decision to strictly implement the two-child norm. Those who continue to live in the world of petty communal politics, and those who think they will thrive by running the false propaganda that there has been no infiltration and silent demographic invasion of Assam, should now accept the reality and utilize their time and energy primarily for the overall welfare of the indigenous communities of Assam.

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