The “lost thing” in election manifestoes

Shiban Khaibri
Absolutely astonishing to find that the crucial and the most demanding issue was conspicuously found lost, and abandoned in the election manifestoes of the political parties, currently in the election fray. The dilemma and the quandary of the Congress Party can well be understood . While it tires not in swearing by the teachings of Gandhi Ji and feels jittery if “someone” else lays a bit of claim on his teachings , they have wittingly disregarded his golden words of “disbanding the existing Congress organization and flower it into Lok Sewak Sangh” after the goal of independence had been achieved. However, they chose the path of “Sewa through politics and rule” and in the process, systematically and as an avowed policy, have been pursuing a particular approach to the cardinal issue throughout the entire period of their rule. This , the Party had to do only and only for securing vote bank interests but the BJP too seems to have avoided to spell its clear cut policy on the issue . That should have not been the case in respect of a ‘party with a difference’. The issue is most important, fervid and crucial as how to control the population growth and what pragmatic and unambiguous policy should be pursued without calculating elements of political “risks” .
Why is this main issue and its tremendous impact on the country’s economic growth and progress eluding the ‘experts’ of political parties drafting the charter of promises and programmes called ” manifestoes” for the five year term of rule for which an election is sought? Are these documents or manifestoes or the crux of policy and programmes of a political party, really for the long run “welfare” of the voters ? What factors come in the way in throwing light on this very important issue which is threateningly challenging us to upset all of our apple carts for addressing related problems? Why the problem conceded to be of the nature of being ‘explosive’ in 1948 having assumed gigantic proportions by as much as five times as on date, is not giving sleepless nights to our political leadership ? What are the reasons of not even ‘promising something’ if not dishing out a solution, about the problem stirring in our face menacingly? Again, this writer would feel increasingly thankful to be informed about any one political leader from any “pragmatic , progressive and even trumpeted secular party” during campaign trail, having remotely touched the important issue even casually in any public meeting? These are a few among numerous questions which need to be replied and adequately addressed.
Any economic model, any economic solution or meticulously thought of series of revolutionary public utility and welfare measures are bound to yield very little results , if not prove failures, unless a time bound short term and long term population control policy was followed in letter and spirit. Since it is not , should the likely scenario of India just 30 years hence or by the year 2050 when we shall be around 2.05 billion or 205 crores at the same trend of growth rate of the population, not frighten each and every Indian ? That most of the people in major cities would not get as much space so as to keep comfortably standing in any street , on any road , at any public place and even move about and live comfortably in the available accommodations of houses, flats, huts , shanties etc. should stir the conscience of the politicians of all thoughts. Then, what about the basic need of the drinking water , not to speak about washing , bathing , cooking , irrigating and the like?
Water crisis in most of the parts of the country is threateningly foretelling us the catastrophe to witness and undergo in the near future. Even at that time also, just to browbeat the government in power, the opposition parties shall be reciting the same chorus -“Kissan Aatma Hatyayen Kartey Haiun”, “Navjawan Berozgar Hain” aur “Mehengai key Maar Hai” as if, had they been in power which is their only aim , they would immediately but permanently solve these problems while in the inner hearts they know the direction of the curve on their performance graph . In other words, when they were in power many a time , they failed miserably but conveniently have been taking refuge under a unique alibi , “But we are secular and progressive”. This political mind-set and administrative will are responsible for our many problems including to a larger extent, the problem of our current population levels.
As on date , we are 1.36 Billion or 136 crore as against in 1951 only 0.36 Billion or 36 crore which in other words means, a net addition of as much as 100 crores. As on date , we are representing 18% of the world’s population or in other words, in every seven persons on this planet, one is an Indian. Those who studied Economics and allied subjects in colleges and Universities in 1951 and around , were confronted, though academically , with the problem of ‘population explosion’ or “India being over populated” with the figures of just 36 crores supported comparatively with more of natural resources, forests, water bodies, more of available land , pollution free living, and the like as against the present situation when all of these are under tremendous strain. The question is whether just 30 years hence , 205 crore people can live and eat well in this country. Making absurd and hypothetical calculations about the likely fall in birth rate commensurate with increase in money incomes can be possible in very ideal situations and under very trying conditions depending upon the political and the administrative will backed by each and every section of the society. Well , is that possible , let the same be analysed not on blathering highly technical premise but in common parlance alone.
Why had the governments in India , mostly and during critical long periods run by the Congress having not formulated any cogent population policies with focus on arresting the growth rate and to effectively manage the country’s human population growth ? Why have forceful debates in the Parliament not taken place especially since late seventies the way they do on other issues mostly to browbeat one another and stage walkouts frequently? Even before independence, when the population brunt on the resources was not as much, two expert committees were set up in early 40s to suggest measures besides discouraging polygamy and while the first one laid stress on self-control , increasing the age of marriage etc, the second one under Sir Joseph Bore suggested “deliberate limitation of family approach”. After independence during fifties no doubt , the leadership of the country felt to do something about it but concentrated on voluntary family planning only because of political calculations and subsequent ‘population policies’ of 1976 and 2000 revolved around child health, contraceptives, maternal health and token incentives for undergoing birth control measures.
Why have we, so far not given any legislative support to the formulation of a Comprehensive National Population Policy which could legally limit the number of children per couple as also declare polygamy as a cognizable offence ? It is not that the political leadership all these decades especially post early 70s, do not realise the gravity of the problem but although a lot is preached in respect of secularism , the likely reaction from and the disturbances in the set equations of the conventional vote bank weigh high in comparison to thinking on long term measures to save India from the population explosion catastrophe. Why should in any pockets of the society, polygamy and limitless children be justified by the state on the grounds of individual faith and yet claim preaching secularism or no say of any religion in matters of state craft? In a country where fasting of people of a particular religion invokes rescheduling of office , school and polling timing, where progressive measures on issues like Talaq are questioned, comprehensive population policy to regulate annual growth is impossible and since for no fault of theirs , the BJP led NDA is labelled as being “against pluralism and diversity”, they too have refrained to touch the exigent and the most pressing problem but how long by any dispensation ?The cat has to be belled.