The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Modi springs population panel

Ahmedabad, Sept. 10: Gujarat today issued a notification announcing the setting up of a population commission to be headed by chief minister Narendra Modi.

Social activists and Opposition Congress leaders have questioned the 'timing and intention' of the decision.

The commission is being set up to 'look into various aspects of population-related problems and to implement the state's population policy' announced two years ago, the notification said.

The announcement of the panel close on the heels of the controversy over the Muslim growth rate ' the census had initially said the community was growing faster than any other, before it was pointed out that the inclusion of Jammu and Kashmir had caused the inflation in the minority population ' has raised eyebrows.

Modi wants to prove a population explosion in the minority community that he can then use for political propaganda, social activist Hanif Lakdawala alleged.

During his Gaurav yatra before the Assembly elections two years ago, Modi had improvised the family planning slogan 'Hum do, hamare do' to 'Hum paanch, Hamare pachees' while referring to the Muslim population.

Health minister and vice-chairman of the commission I.K. Jadeja, however, denied that the government plans to make minority population an issue. 'We have no such intention. The timing is just a coincidence,' he insisted.

Jadeja claimed that the state government had decided to 'reconstitute' the commission about a fortnight ago and it had just happened to issue the notification today.

When the state announced its first population policy two years ago, it was decided that a commission would be set up to implement it.

Following the Cairo declaration, the policy negates disincentives and forced sterilisation as a means of population control.

But AICC member and state Congress in-charge Manish Tiwari described the decision to set up the panel as 'ill-conceived, mischievous and an attempt to create social tension and disrupt the social fabric'.

Questioning the need for such a panel ' no other state has one ' the Congress leader said even the 'timing is suspect'. Bypolls are due in five Assembly seats in the state and neighbouring Maharashtra is going to polls next month.

State Congress vice-president Hasmukh Patel said: 'The purpose of the panel is nothing but minority bashing.'

Patel pointed out that for two years, the commission had not been set up. Suddenly, after the census figures were released, the Modi government woke up and swung into action, he said.

'Does it not look like a political ploy to influence electorate in Maharashtra' the Congress leader asked.

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