`The first report was correct and natural'

Print edition : October 08, 2004

SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY

Interview with Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, national vice-president, BJP.

Bharatiya Janata Party vice-president and spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi spoke to T.K. Rajalakshmi on the party's position on population and related issues. Excerpts from the interview:

What is the BJP's line on population control?

Excess population in any country, developed or otherwise, acts as a speedbreaker to development. To look at it from the religious angle is not correct. Those who say this is `un-Islamic' are not correct as several countries who are Islamic are conducting family planning programmes. It has to be seen in a socio-economic context.

Why the emphasis on the two-child norm now when the total population figures were available two years ago?

Let us keep aside the data for the moment. The population is growing at a very fast pace and unfortunately, among the minorities, the Muslims, the rate of growth is faster. I agree that this is owing to illiteracy and superstition. Today the population is 100 crores and if developmental plans are made for five years, then the excess numbers affect that rate of development. If you look at data over the last 40 years, while the population of Muslims has increased, their representation in government services, Parliament, Assemblies and the administrative service has gone down. This proves that a mere increase in population does not guarantee participation in the development process.

You spoke of representation. One important form of grassroots representation has been the panchayati raj system. However, the prevalence of the two-child norm in several States, including those ruled by the Congress, has seen elected representatives getting disqualified and several others declared ineligible to contest elections. How does such a norm improve representation?

We have to start from somewhere. It is possible that there are some minor disadvantages, but the overall advantage has to be seen. I think if the disadvantage is 5 per cent, the advantage is 95 per cent. Now it is only the panchayats, it should be taken forward to State Assemblies and Parliament. It is okay that it started from below but it should be taken upwards now.

At the BJP Chief Ministers' conclave held recently, the party leadership expressed concern about population growth and stressed the need to control it. What was the message the party wanted to convey?

We have expressed concerns that the high population growth rates were impeding the process of development. At least the BJP-ruled States can do something about it. When we talk about population control, we do not talk about any particular community. Some people are reacting on religious grounds. No religious text mentions population control as such concepts were not known when they came into being. No reform should be linked with religion.

Is the BJP of the view that any method of population control, including incentives and disincentives, can be used to implement the two-child norm?

Disincentives and incentives are definitely there to discourage and encourage people to adopt the two-child norm. The State governments have been told to see the ground position in their States and implement it accordingly. But the party is unanimous that this should be taken up.

There is a perception that the BJP has raised the issue of population control only after the religion data emerged, especially the unadjusted figures.

I think that the report itself is confusing. The first report was correct and natural. For some political reasons it was altered. I am not going to delve into that. I feel that there has been a 20 per cent underestimation of the population growth, especially of Muslims. I do not look at it politically. This is very dangerous for the Muslim community itself. The way their population is increasing coupled with socio-economic and educational backwardness is not good for any country.

The National Population Policy was formulated in 2000 and approved by Parliament during the National Democratic Alliance's tenure. A progressive policy, it prohibits the use of incentives and disincentives. But the BJP seems to be going back on those principles.

Policies have their limitations. And sometimes ground realities differ from policies. In such a situation, no responsible government nor any responsible political party can rely on policies alone. As far as international conventions are concerned, every country has its own peculiarities. In West Asia and Arab countries, there is a lot of stress on population control. Despite having a strong economy and being Islamic countries, they have strong population policies. We should be doing much more.

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