The Assam government is mulling over a population policy for state government employees which, if implemented, will favour those who do not have more than two children in securing government jobs.
Though India’s family planning policy educates people to not have more than two children, the Assam government is taking a stricter step to ensure that the two-child policy is adhered to.
According to local reports, state Finance and Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that anyone having more than two children will not be granted a government job. Those not following the rule will be dismissed from service.
He said that state government employees will be discouraged from having a third child once the policy comes into effect. But government employees already having more than two children will not come under such a policy.
That is not all. The state government is planning to cover panchayat elections too in the policy.
Sarma said, “We are also planning that if someone wants to fight panchayat elections, he or she (the candidate) shouldn’t have more than two children.”
Sarma, who is also the Education Minister of the state, added that chapters on population control will be introduced in school textbooks from standard five.
The draft bill regarding population control is set to be tabled in the state assembly in March 2017.
But why is Assam government going for such a drastic measure? One reason could be illegal immigration from Bangladesh.
According to the 2011 Census of India, three districts joined the six Muslim majority districts in Assam. The three districts are: Darrang (64.34%), Morigaon (52.36%), and Bongaigaon (50.22%). Other six are: Dhubri 79.67%, Barpeta 70.74%, Hailakandi 60.31%, Goalpara 57.52%, Karimganj 56.36%, and Nagaon 55.36%.
All nine districts with a majority Muslim population share the border with or are very close to Bangladesh. What is actually shocking is percentage rise in the three new Muslim majority districts.
While pointing at the need for an economic policy for the welfare of the Muslim majority districts which are actually very poor, Wasbir Hussain contends that between 2001 and 2011 Muslim population in Bongaigaon had a growth rate of about 12 per cent, Morigaon had a growth of about 5 per cent, and Darrang had a growth of about 29 per cent.
Except in Morigaon’s case, the percentage rise in the other two districts is quite unusual.
Assam has a Muslim population of 34 per cent but it is the unusual growth rate that has pointed to an influx of illegal immigrants in the state via the porous border it shares with Bangladesh.
But illegal immigration is not the only reason for the state government to plan on such a measure. Poverty in the Muslim dominated districts in Assam is also a major cause of worry.
Due to high infant mortality rate, many of the families in the districts have more than three children. This has created a cycle of rising population and rising poverty.
A cap on the population coupled with economically beneficial policies will, perhaps, help in tackling poverty in the state.