Family.

Welcome to the Loose Bloggers’ Consortium, where every Friday, some of us post on the same topic. Today’s topic “Family”, has been chosen by Conrad.

I would like to write about India’s most urgent problem of the family. If India’s family planning strategies could only work, our prosperity levels would be more equitable.

In the India that I was born in, large families were the norm. Family planning was unknown and the only abortions one heard of were miscarriages. Joint families of scores of members were quite common in the rural parts though in the cities not as many. Today, even in rural parts, such families have made their way for unitary families due to land holdings being parceled out to all heirs. The growth in total population however has been phenomenal. At the time of independence in 1947, we were around 350 million. We are now in excess of one billion.

Identifying the problem, even then as an important one, immediately after independence, the Indian government aggressively decided to promote family planning with a “We two, Ours two” policy.

This thrust shifted to a one child norm subsequently.

I suppose that it is some bureaucrat’s idea of parenthood that, the father is shown with that miserable look on his face!

Many strategies are in place including legislation for abortion being legal. Free sterilization surgeries in government hospitals, including regular camps for the same in rural areas with additional incentives, monetary or in kind, achieve some success,  but we are yet to reach satisfactory levels. In the 1965-2009 period, contraceptive usage has more than tripled (from 13% of married women in 1970 to 48% in 2009) and the fertility rate has more than halved (from 5.7 in 1966 to 2.7 in 2009), but the national fertility rate is still high enough to cause long-term undesirable population growth.

The problem is to take the message to the rural illiterate population. In the cities and towns success has been achieved, but where significant action is needed, the progress is slow.

Unfortunately, India being a democracy, the kind of intervention that China was able to make has not been possible. During the infamous emergency period, forced sterilizations were carried out and the ruling party paid dearly for it after the emergency was lifted and elections were held.

So, we now have the urban phenomenon of different types of families; DINKS (Double Income No Kids), DISKS (Doble Income Single Kid), SINKS (Single Income No Kids) and SISKS( Single Income Single Kid) and other variations of family planning on the one hand, and unplanned production of children in the rural and illiterate population of India. My own small family was among the early adapters of DISK which eventually became a SISK. Now, it is a TINK(Triple Income No Kid)!

The many types of large families that I have seen in my childhood and youth have all but disappeared but we still have a long way to go to reach sanity.

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