NEW DELHI: Sterilisation—the mode of controlling the exploding population—always evoked controversy since the days of Emergency. Now, another storm is brewing over it. The government has withdrawn the Family Planning Allowance (FPA) being paid to the Central Government employees, who opt for sterilisation. Because it considers the allowance to be a wasteful expenditure.
The employees were in for a shock this month, when their salaries came with a cut. The decision to discontinue FPA came after the Ministry of Finance (MoF) accepted recommendation of the 7th Central Pay Commission, which believed it was no longer an incentive.
“The recommendation of the 7th Central Pay Commission to abolish FPA has been accepted and this decision is effective from July 1, 2017. Accordingly, FPA, as admissible hitherto, shall cease to exist in all cases,” the letter of MoF’s Department of Expenditure, accessed by The Sunday Standard said. Pay Panel’s Argument To end the allowance, the Pay Commission argued that there was enough awareness among employees for family planning.
To end the Family Planning Allowance (FPA) paid to the Central Government employees, the 7th Central Pay Commission argued that there was enough awareness among employees. “The level of awareness regarding appropriate family size has also gone up. Hence, a separate allowance aimed towards population control is not required now. Accordingly, FPA should be abolished,” its report stated.
The country of 125 crore people would surpass the population of China by 2024 with an expected headcount of 150 crore Indians on the planet. The MoF’s decision would impede the population control movement, which India has been pursuing since 1970s. The policy might prove to be counter-productive at a time when the government is spending crores on population control schemes.
After coming to power, the Narendra Modi government worked out an enhanced compensation scheme for sterilisation services in 11 higher focus states—Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Assam, Haryana and Gujarat. The government had enhanced compensation to `1,400 for tubectomy and `2,000 for vasectomy, saying it would compensate for loss of wages, transport, nutrition and post-operative recovery. These are not long-term incentives.
The policy, introduced in December 1979, came up for review in 1986 when the Rajiv Gandhi government decided to continue with it. Subsequently in 2008, during the Manmohan Singh regime, the policy was still found to be relevant, necessary and in sync with the overall population control scheme. But, the NDA government felt to the contrary.
The Risk Factor
As against China, the whole scheme of population control in India is persuasive and voluntary. The task, therefore, is not that easy particularly when sterilisation comes with risks. The number of deaths and complications due to sterilisation is a big disincentive to people opting for surgical means for family planning. There have been reports of cattle-like surgeries, epitomised by Dr R K Gupta of Chhattisgarh, who performed laparoscopic tubectomies on 83 women, within 90 minutes in 2014. As many as 13 women had died and 65 were impaired in the botched sterilisation.