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India's Family Planning Programme: An Unpleasant Essay

This paper takes a fresh critical look at the evolution of India's family planning programme (FPP) and at its performance and failings. It addresses India's apparently contradictory position of having a pioneering role in the global population control movement and also being branded as a country of 'demographic inertia'. This puzzle is in large part due to a deep contradiction and confusion that has continued from the very beginning to inflict the policy-makers and political leadership, especially about the potential of FPP per se in reducing fertility. A tension between the felt urgency of population control and a stubborn scepticism about the effectiveness of a voluntary FPP in the context of a slow socio-economic transformation, has fed into further confusions and chaos relating to the choice of policy instruments and programme strategy. This is brought into sharper focus by the success story of Bangladesh's family planning programme. The most prominent deficiencies and mistakes of India's family planning programme are, it is argued, related largely to a typical bureaucratic (and perhaps political too) predilections, hazy perceptions about effective strategy, and relatedly a chronic mismatch between expressions of priority and actual fund allocation to FPP, which were confounded by a distinct lack of openness (until very recently) towards the experience and expertise of the international community.

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