India is witnessing a constant decline in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR), and as per Census 2001-2011, the sharpest decline in population has been recorded in this decade, in the last 100 years, the Centre has informed the Supreme Court.
"Furthermore, as per the Census, 2001-2011 is the first decade in the last 100 years which has not only added lesser population as compared to the previous one, but also registered the sharpest decline in the decadal growth rate from 21.54 percent in 1991-2001 to 17.64 percent in 2001-2011," said the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The Centre pointed out the wanted fertility in India as per National Family Health Survey (NFHS) IV is only 1.8 as against the actual fertility of 2.2 prevailing at that time, indicating couples on an average do not want more than 2 children. However, in as many as 25 out of 36 states/UTs have already achieved the replacement level fertility of 2.1 or less. The affidavit said: "India is witnessing a constant decline in the TFR. The TFR which was 3.2 at the time when National Population Policy 2000 was adopted has declined substantially to 2.2 as per SRS 2018."
The Centre has emphasised that the Family Welfare Programme in the country is voluntary and it is unequivocally against forcing family planning on its people. "The Family Welfare Programme in India is voluntary in nature, which enables couples to decide the size of their family and adopt the family planning methods, best suited to them, according to their choice, without any compulsion", said the Centre.
The Centre said "public health" is a state subject. Therefore, states must deploy strategies for health sector reforms in a suitable and sustainable manner to protect the common people from health hazards. The Centre plays a supportive and facilitative role in achieving the health care reforms and outcomes, and acts as a facilitator for providing accessible and affordable health care through state-led reforms.
The affidavit emphasised that India has adopted a comprehensive and holistic National Population Policy (NPP) 2000, with clearly articulated objectives, strategic themes and operational strategies.
The National Health Policy (NHP), 2017 acts as a guiding force in shaping health systems in all its dimensions. "The NHP sets out indicative, quantitative goals and objectives which includes the achievement of total fertility Rate (TFR) of 2.1 by 2025", added the affidavit.
The health ministry has emphasised India can achieve the goal of population stabilisation and at present India is knocking at the door of achieving replacement level fertility, and has made remarkable improvement in reducing maternal and child mortality.
The response from the Centre came on a PIL by lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay challenging a Delhi High Court order, which dismissed his plea seeking two-child norm, to address the concerns of overpopulation. The Centre submitted the plea filed by Upadhyay is misconceived and devoid of merit.