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Pvt help to bust baby boom

New Delhi, July 11: The National Population Commission plans to rope in private hospitals to stabilise the population growth rate in Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

On World Population Day, India presented a chequered picture with its 1.06 billion-plus population.

Pointing to regional disparities, the commission said special initiatives for states with a poor track record were under consideration. “We will identify private hospitals which can ensure a better delivery system for reproductive health, particularly in districts with an increasing population growth rate,” Surendranath, the commission’s member secretary, said.

The panel will broach the matter with both private hospitals and the health and family welfare ministry. If the plan works out, private hospitals will reach districts where primary health centres are defunct or ill-equipped. The hospitals will serve as a back-up in condom distribution and ensure good ante- and post-natal care.

“At present, the health ministry signs memoranda of understanding with private hospitals like Apollo or Escorts, where government employees can be treated at concessional rates. The government can have a similar kind of agreement for districts with a high population rate,” Surendranath said.

Though the population rate has been successfully controlled by Andhra Pradesh, Bengal and Assam, it has shot up in Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana.

Over the last decade, Bengal has brought the rate down from 2.2 per cent to 1.6, Andhra from 2.2 to 1.3, and Assam from 2.2 to 1.7. Kerala’s rate has dropped from 1.3 per cent to 0.9.

Bihar, however, has registered an increase from 2.1 per cent to 2.5, Gujarat from 1.9 to 2, and Haryana from 2.4 to 2.5. The rate is stagnating at 2.3 per cent in Uttar Pradesh and 2.5 per cent in Rajasthan.

Launching a small-family campaign, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat today said: “There will be no need for coercion once people understand the value of a small family.”

Health and family welfare minister Sushma Swaraj said one reason for the unstable rate was the increasing incidence of female foeticide.

Non-government organisations’ studies show a “son preference” affecting the two-child norm. As many as 47 per cent couples with two daughters said they do not want to restrict the number of children to two.

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