Amid push for a population control policy by some Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Wednesday said had the BJP not opposed the sterilisation drive in the 1970s the population would have not increased so much and accused the saffron party of raising the issue with an eye on the next year's Uttar Pradesh elections.
He also said creating public awareness is more important to contain the population growth rather than enacting laws.
Talking to reporters at Raipur airport before leaving for Nagpur, Baghel also said if the opposition parties had not opposed the nasbandi (sterilisation) drive in the 1970s (launched under the then Indira Gandhi government) the population would not have increased so much.
“This is the same BJP (referring to the erstwhile Bharatiya Jan Sangh) that had opposed the sterilisation programme. If that drive had been carried forward in the 1970s, then the population would not have increased so much,” said the chief minister.
Baghel was responding to a question on Uttar Pradesh's draft population control bill and a proposed formulation of a policy in this regard in Assam-- both states are ruled by the BJP.
The UP draft bill has provisions to debar people who have more than two children from the benefits of government schemes and proposes perks to those who follow the two-child policy.
"In the 1970s, then opposition parties had made the population control programme the main election issue, and therefore, the drive got affected,” he said.
Baghel said the problem of the growing population will not be resolved by framing laws but public awareness is required for this purpose.
"Now many families, including the downtrodden sections, are realising the importance of having one or two children.. I think public awareness should be created and laws should not be made only for the sake of politics”, he added.
In the same vein, Baghel attacked the Union government over its "wrong policies" which he said resulted in rising inflation.
“The BJP cannot understand the pains of the common man. The rising inflation is not due to the unavailability of commodities, rather it is due to the wrong policies of the Centre. They implemented demonetisation, GST and (pandemic) lockdown improperly and all these measures have now resulted in rising inflation,” the Congress leader said.
He also accused the Centre of not supplying sufficient fertilisers to Chhattisgarh.
"Prime minister Narendra Modi says that this is the country of young people and India has the most number of young people in the world. But now this youth has become a problem for you it seems," Baghel told reporters in Nagpur in Maharashtra.
He said the Modi government lacked any programme to offer jobs to the young people.
“You are not able to prove employment and now misguiding people with the two-child policy. If the BJP had not protested then (1977) then the population could have been controlled. This should not be promoted as law but the need of the hour is to create public awareness on this issue. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar also called for public awareness. These things cannot be introduced in society by bringing law,” he said.
Baghel accused the BJP of raising the population issue with an eye on the Uttar Pradesh elections in 2022.
"They (BJP) are raising this issue as an election card. Will they provide jobs to those having two children? If yes, then bring a law to provide jobs to all the people having two children," the Congress leader said.
Responding to a query, Baghel said Chhatisgarh has an "ideal population situation" and does not need any such law.
"Farmers are affected due to the Central farm laws, traders due to GST, and youth due to the lack of employment opportunities in India. In the last one year, the price of retail goods went up by 40 per cent," he said slamming the Modi government.
Alleging that the Union government has "failed" in all aspects, Baghel said this government is for a few corporates only.
"Today, the people of the country are feeling that not only Narendra Modi has failed as PM but it also becomes clear that the BJP does not know how to run a government. The common man is suffering due to a huge rise in rates of fuel," he alleged.
Baghel avoided a direct reply when asked if Congress will bring petrol and diesel under the ambit of GST if voted to power at the Centre.
"GST was brought by us and the then chief minister of Gujarat (Narendra Modi) had opposed it. After coming to power, the BJP implemented GST but in the wrong way. It is not 'one nation one tax' as being touted, but a 'one nation five tax'. If Congress comes to power again, we will implement the GST in a different way ensuring that there will be less burden on the common people. GST will be rethought and implemented properly,” he said.