New Delhi, July 23 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said that government policy was against incentive-based population control measures and coercion of any control to achieve it would not be acceptable.
Chairing the first meeting of the reconstituted National Commission on Population here, Manmohan Singh called for a three-pronged strategy focusing on the welfare of women and children, improving health and educational levels and balancing regional development to stabilise population.
"I would like to make it clear that our policy does not encourage incentives and disincentives as they have, at best, only a marginal impact and sometimes may even cause resentment and non-acceptance of the programme," Manmohan Singh said.
Pointing out that coercion of any kind to achieve population stabilisation was unacceptable in a free society, he said his government would evolve a development strategy focusing its attention on elimination of poverty and empowerment of women, keeping fertility reduction in the broader context.
Agreeing that human resource was an inevitable asset to a developing nation, Manmohan Singh said there should be limits to the population in such a way that the environment should be able to sustain in the long run.
"Therefore, sustainability of development processes requires a degree of population stabilisation."
"We must not mistake population stabilisation to be population control. There is widespread consensus that population stabilisation entails a holistic, comprehensive approach towards education and healthcare, particularly of our women and children," Manmohan Singh told the commission.
Expressing his apprehensions over the feasibility of a non-comprehensive population control policy, the prime minister said it should be integrated with the country's wider development policy.
"In this context, I believe that unless our population policy is integrated with our wider development policy, it can never achieve the objective of population stabilisation within a reasonable time frame."
"The link between social and human development and demographic trends is obvious and too stark to ignore," he said, urging the states with high population growth to "study and learn from the experience" of states like Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, which have higher scores in the human development index.
Admitting that the absence of social security compels families to have more children, the prime minister emphasised the need for an effective old age care system with a focused drive to reduce infant mortality.
"Empowerment of women and a holistic approach to reproductive and child care will enable this to happen and I would want greater attention to be paid to this aspect," he said.
"In addition to giving focused attention to the welfare of girl child and women, there has to be a concerted campaign to improve the health and educational status of the entire population in general," Manmohan Singh said.
"We have to pursue a more balanced policy of regional development so that adequate employment opportunities are made available in the more populated regions of the country," he said.
The prime minister said the major challenge of population management would be the empowerment of people to transform "liabilities" into "assets."
"A literate, gainfully employed and socially, culturally and economically productive person is a national asset," he said.
The prime minister asked the commission to suggest practical policy options for the government, the private sector, educational institutions and other civil society organisations.
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