Family Planning in India: History, Importance , Achievements & Impact

The problem of the rapidly growing population is a major concern in many countries, including India. Hence, many governments all across the world have introduced family planning measures to the exploding population. Family planning refers to having only the desired number of offspring. It also involves limiting the family to a number the family considers relevant, given its resources as well as time gaps between one child and the consecutive ones. If talk of family planning as a social movement, it refers to an organized effort by a group of people trying to make changes in the childbearing process of the people by helping to create a favorable atmosphere in the society. Though this movement initially sought to release the burden of giving birth to too many children on women and help them make decisions for themselves. Family planning could either be aimed at improvisation of women’s health status or at reducing the population growth. In India, the latter was a dominant cause.

The National Family Planning Program, 1952 of India defines family planning as “reducing the birth rate to the extent necessary to stabilize the population at a level consistent with the requirement of the national economy”.

Sociological implications:  When there is no family planning being done, women are to keep reproducing and are in charge of taking care of the kids and nurturing them. They don’t have any scope for personal life. They can’t develop their own selves as they are packed with responsibilities over their kids. All their physical and mental resources are invested upon the kids. This could lead to stress and depression which ultimately affects the women’s health and consequently- that of their children. Children born into large families such as these are to work as early in life as they humanly could so as to supplement the earnings of the family. They are victimized by child labor since they are not sent to school but for work. And the condition of the female children is the worst-off. They are usually never sent to school at all or drop out of school at very young ages so as to help their mothers in the domestic work and take care of their young siblings while the parents are off for work. They are married off at a very tender age and this cycle endures. Excessive fertility is hence a cause of many problems faced by society.

If couples plan their families properly, they make small families which lead to healthy lifestyles. They have less but robust children. These children have better education, nutrition as well as health care facilities provided by the government through family welfare measures. This will help create a labor force that is healthy and is able to work productively. This will help increase the productivity per capita. It will also raise the income levels in the country. High rates of income will help raise the investment, savings as well as capital formation. This will all amount to an increase in the growth of the Indian economy.

Family planning in India:

India is the seventh-largest country in the world but its population is so high it can’t provide everyone with enough resources. The high growth of the population puts pressure on scarce resources, thereby reducing the per capita income and eventually slowing down the process of development.

India needed family planning for the following reasons:

  • To raise the per capita income of the country so as to meet the increasing living standards of the people
  • To improve the quality of the youth
  • To be able to distribute the scare resources to everyone equally
  • To maintain the health of the mothers as well as that of the children
  • To make sure the population growth rate is not too high- India cannot have too many people since land is a limited resources.
  • To make the couples know of the services provided by the government in order to assist them with reproduction.
  • To develop India sustainably as well as fast
  • To ensure unemployment doesn’t increase

Post-independence, the Family Planning Association of India was constituted in 1949. India launched a countrywide Family Planning Program in 1952, the first in the entire world. It initially pertained to birth control programs but once the government realizes the importance of family welfare, it incorporated the elements of maternal and child health, nutrition and other family welfare measures. In 1966, the Ministry of Health constituted a separate department for family planning. The ruling Janata party government, in 1977, formulated a new population policy that wasn’t forced upon people but those who wanted to could adopt it voluntarily. It also changed the name of the Family Planning Department to Family Welfare Program.

Family planning in India has majorly been a welfare measure by the Central government and has been sponsored by it. The Planning Commission and the Department of Family Welfare had laid down targets for welfare activities in all the plans. Though not immediately, the results could be seen. Though the usage of contraceptives has increased over the years and the fertility rate has decreased by over 50%, the present fertility rate is still high enough to put pressure on the resources. Reports show that 48.3% of married women use a contraceptive method. This implies that more than half of the married women in the country don’t use any kind of contraception at all.

Impact of family planning in India:

 Some of the main achievements of Family Planning in India are as follows:

  • Awareness among the people (regarding contraception)
  • The low fertility rate among educated couples
  • The lower growth rate of the population
  • Increase in the use of contraceptive methods
  • Knowledge of female sterilization which is considered as the safest and most popular method of contraception.
  • The lower fertility rate among people with high incomes.

Social barriers:

Hindu culture: The Manusmriti (which is pious for about 85% of the population) says that marriages that lead to progeny are divine while those that are for pleasure are unholy. Many women don’t embrace family planning for this very reason.

Patriarchy: Parents believe that giving birth to a son can help them go to heaven after they die. In order to give birth to a boy, many couples keep reproducing.

Religious beliefs: Women may need to seek the permission of her husband or in-laws to consult a doctor or get access to healthcare. According to some interpretations of the doctrines of Islam, family planning methods are forbidden.

Illiteracy of women: A woman who has been educated well understands the importance of reproductive health. She is also allowed, to some extent, to make her own decisions. If this is the case, many women will be more inclined towards health over religion.

Accessibility: Many married couples reported that they can’t easily get access to the contraceptive method they wish to make use of. Only those who have this available in their vicinity use the services.

High rural population: There is a huge majority of India living in villages. A lot of them are ignorant, conservative and uneducated. Their acts are deep-rooted in the traditions and customs that have existed for very long and aren’t ready to give up on these practices.

Traditional joint family: In a traditional joint family, there are many generations of people living together under one roof. And there’s the practice of giving birth to a lot of children who will eventually help in taking care of the businesses or industries the family owns (as in cottage industry). This is another reason for the couples giving birth to many kids.

Family planning is not designed to destroy families; on the contrary it is designed to save them”

-Robert McNamara, former President of World Bank

Family welfare (which includes providing health care, nutritional food, education, etc. to the public by the government) is to be executed alongside family planning since they both complement each other. And the Indian government rightly did the same. This helped the movement get better with time. The technological advancement, awareness among people, enhancement of the quality of health care and utilization of the services have helped many people embrace family planning. But there is still the gender chauvinism in India. Also, there are many women who are forced into giving birth to many children. To conclude, the family welfare program in India has been both successful and unsuccessful. There is still a long way to go.

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