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  • Two Child norm is plainly unfair - It is anti-women, anti-poor, anti-rural folk, anti-minority

    The Two Child norm is plainly unfair - It is anti-women, anti-poor, anti-rural folk, anti-minority

    V Mohini Giri (Monday, August 04, 2003, The Indian Express)

    It was just the other day that an eminent journalist, P. Sainath, wrote about how children were being deprived of going to school as the result of the two-child norm. The sarpanchs had to hide their children to avoid being debarred from office on account of having more than two children. Apart from being anti-women, anti-poor and anti-minority, this law will discourage women from taking part in grassroots democracy. Early child bearing is the norm in rural India, and fertility levels are also high.

    Ironically, India is one of the signatories to the Cairo Declaration on population and development that seeks a human-centred approach to population issues with special emphasis on the role of women.

    The two-child norm as a criterion for contesting elections has come into force in the states of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh. In Mukesh Kumar Ajmera vs State of Rajasthan, 12 elected panchs challenged the orders of the chief executive officers of their respective panchayats, disqualifying them on the basis of the birth of a child beyond the second. The Court struck down the order of disqualification but only on procedural grounds!

    According to a study conducted by Bhopal-based Chetna Mahila Manch, more than 50 per cent of those disqualified under the provisions of the “two-child” norm were either illiterate or had education only up to the primary level. Clearly, economically and socially vulnerable sections were affected the most by this law, 75 percent of those disqualified belonged to SC/ST and backward castes.

    The complaints of violation of the two-child norm were filed by those who wanted either to attack the leadership or settle scores. Further, the law is not clear on stillbirths as well as the birth of twins. There are also cases of abortion, desertion, divorce and the giving away of children in adoption to evade the law.

    The two-child norm has also led to an increase in the number of female foeticides. In the case of male foetuses, it was found that mothers usually went ahead with the pregnancy at the risk of losing her/or her husband’s post. Moreover, Muslim men are permitted to be polygamous legally. The law is ambiguous on its stand with regard to the Muslim men and women.

    I would like to quote the report of the working group on Decentralised Planning and Panchayat Raj Institutions for the Tenth Five Year Plan, submitted in 2001: “Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh Maharashtra and Rajasthan have opted for two-child norm panchayat elections. Clearly, the mandatory two-child norm has failed as a population control measure.”