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Home > News > Report

2-child norm soon in urban Bihar

February 15, 2007 13:03 IST

Despite strong protests and opposition from voluntary organisations, the Bihar government is planning to implement the two-child norm in urban local bodies.

Under the policy recently cleared by the Bihar cabinet, persons having more than two children will be debarred from contesting elections for local bodies.

Defending the government decision, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told UNI that it was meant to increase awareness about the advantages of small families and check the population growth in the state.

Asked whether it would not be detrimental for poor people having more than two children as they will be debarred from participating in the democratic process at the grassroot level, Kumar said since the scheme will be implemented only in the urban local bodies it will not affect the village panchayats.

However, voluntary organisations term the policy both anti-women and anti-poor. They apprehend that the two-child norm will adversely affect the development of poor people and will violate their democratic rights.

Organisations like Healthwatch Forum Bihar and Centre for Justice are opposing the decision to accept the State Election Commission recommendation for urban local bodies.

The SEC has recommended it even for panchayats and given the slogan Adhik bachche hote nahin chunav ke liye achche (more children not good for polls).

According to the commission, it will be an effective strategy to control the rising population of the state. The recent National Family Health Survey Data for Bihar shows that the state has not made much progress in the field of population control as the Total Fertility Rate has gone up from 3.7 to 4, which is more than the national average.

About 89 per cent of children in the age group of six months to three years in the state were anaemic. Anaemia is a major cause of infant mortality and morbidity. Though the infant mortality rate has lowered from 78 to 62, the high rate of anaemia among children is making them prone to higher morbidity.

The immunisation rate in rural Bihar is only 31.1%. Every second woman's body mass index in the state is below normal while every other child has stunted growth, according to the survey.

Since all these figures point out the bleak chances of survival of children, people in general go for more children, the NGOs point out. They feel by imposing the two-child norm the human rights of poor, malnourished and illiterate people were being violated.

One of the most commonly cited reasons for which two-child norm is imposed is to arrest the growth of population. However, the experience is that it never influences demography, they say.

Citing example of Rajasthan, where this Act has been in force since 1994, they point out that the growth rate of Rajasthan was 28.44 during the period 1981-91 and it was 28.33 from 1991 to 2001.

Moreover, Madhya Pradesh government was forced to withdraw such a policy following staunch opposition from women activists and health workers who pointed out that it will adversely affect the registration of birth. Moreover, women will be more affected as they will be abandoned by men wanting to contest elections.

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