Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day call to arrest the “population explosion”, echoing a longstanding Sangh parivar demand, has set off speculation within the BJP about an impending law on population control.
Parivar leaders have for years been blaming Muslims for the purported spurt in the country’s population and raising the bogey of the community eventually outnumbering Hindus in the country.
The Sangh had passed a resolution in 2015 expressing “deep concern” at “severe demographic imbalances” and urging the government to “reformulate the National Population Policy” and apply it “uniformly” to all sections of society.
Modi, known to generally celebrate India’s “demographic dividend”, on Thursday expressed concern at a “betahasa jansankhya bisfot” (reckless population explosion) and stressed the need for government action to control the situation.
“Our country has entered a phase when there is no need to hide many things. The time to confront challenges has come,” the Prime Minister said in his I-Day speech.
“A population explosion can create new problems, particularly for future generations…. Governments, whether at the Centre or in the states, must come forward with different programmes (to arrest the trend).”
He described people with small families as “patriots”.
BJP circles have sniffed in the comments a signal of the government’s intention to enact some kind of legislation to control the population.
The ease with which the government got the Kashmir and triple talaq laws through both Houses of Parliament has convinced the BJP it can get any legislation passed in the “national interest”.
“When Modiji has flagged the issue, you can be sure the government is ready with some kind of law,” a BJP insider said. “Modi hai toh mumkin hai (With Modi, everything is possible).”
Modi’s comments had been preceded by a private member’s bill in the Rajya Sabha, moved recently by nominated MP Rakesh Sinha, a Sangh ideologue turned BJP politician. The bill sought to enforce a two-child norm through carrot and stick.
“Now with the Prime Minister highlighting the issue, I hope people will debate the matter and arrive at a consensus over a law to stabilise the population,” Sinha told The Telegraph.
Union minister Giriraj Singh, who had last month suggested that couples who have more than two children be stripped of their voting rights, tweeted: “The Prime Minister has spoken about this from the Red Fort…. We now have full faith that this will reach its destination.”
Giriraj had earlier aimed a jab at Muslims saying “religious obstacles” were one reason why the country had failed to check the “population explosion”.
As Gujarat chief minister, Modi had been quoted as taunting Muslims by saying “Hum panch, hamare pachis” --- an allusion to the slur that Muslim men have four wives and father dozens of children.
Some parivar representatives and even elected BJP members have exhorted Hindus to produce more children to keep up with the Muslims.
Sinha, however, denied that the demand for population control was aimed at any particular community. “The bill I moved proposes a religion-blind and region-blind law. It will be a secular law,” he said.
He, however, asserted that the Muslim population was growing faster than the Hindu population and that this couldn’t be swept aside.
Sinha said the picture looked disturbing at the micro level and asked that district and sub-district-level data be taken into consideration.