It is in keeping with our democratic set-up that the family welfare programme is a voluntary one. People are free to choose their own methods of family planning that suit them best. People are being involved in the movement through social institutions, voluntary agencies, social workers and people’s representatives. It is good that no coercive measures are adopted but lack of people’s involvement to a desired level has been a real source of concern to the people behind the movement. It is high time that some mildly drastic steps are also taken to curb our ever-increasing population. Unless and until we have proper check on our population growth, it is almost impossible to improve the quality of life and standard of living. The programme of family planning needs to be vigorously pursued.
During the Emergency some drastic and coercive measures were adopted, which were resisted by the people. They also resulted in the overthrow of the government, headed by Mrs. India Gandhi, in the general election. Therefore, it has been made totally voluntary. The programme includes maternal and child healthcare, their nutrition and family welfare. The various schemes related to family planning and welfare is implemented through the state governments, for which the Centre provides complete assistance. There is a network of primary health centres and sub-centres, in the villages of the country to popularize the movement. The number of these centres is being increased further. Nimrods or condoms, oral pills, contraceptive jelly, creams, etc. are being distributed free of charge through these health centres and other agencies.
These are also available at subsidized rates at various retail outlets, chemist shops and pharmaceutical establishments.
Much improved sterilization and tubectomies operation facilities now exist at various hospitals, dispensaries, and primary health-centres throughout the country. Special camps and campaigns are also being organised in villages and towns for this purpose. Financial and other incentives are also given to the people who voluntarily undergo these operations. Research activities are going on at Family Welfare Training and Research Centre, Mumbai, Central Health Education Bureau, New Delhi, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi in the areas of demography, reproductive biology and fertility control. In order to provide maternal and child health-care services to more and more women and babies, the post-natal programme has now been extended to over 1000 hospitals spread in villages and towns all over the country.
The raising of the minimum age of marriage to 18 for girls and 21 for boys, coupled with the legalization of termination of undesired pregnancies have been steps in the right direction. The family planning and welfare programme in our country was launched officially in 1952 and since then, there has been commendable progress. There is a good deal of consciousness among the educated urban people about family planning and use of contraceptives and yet we can learn something more from China in this respect.
No doubt there is much and appreciable awareness among the people about family planning and mother and child healthcare. More and more people have come to realise the many positive advantages that are there in a small and well- planned family, and yet there is still a vast gap between awareness and acceptance of the various measures of family planning. To bridge this gap there should be a number of incentives and disincentives. A useful and progressive family planning programme should necessarily seek the help of more and more voluntary agencies, social workers, Panchayati- members, village medical practitioners, caste elders, religious groups and village nurses and dais. What we need is an integrated and methodical approach to the problem.