The draft of the proposed policy says violators or those with more than two children would be barred from contesting local elections, applying for government jobs or getting subsidies under government welfare schemes. Government employees with more children than the norm would be barred from promotion. Available data on fertility levels suggests the brunt of these punitive measures will be borne by the underprivileged. This is no surprise as it is well established in public health that socioeconomic development is the biggest determinant of fertility.
Data from the National Family Healthy Survey done in 2019-20 (NFHS-5) has not yet been released for Uttar Pradesh. But going by NFHS-4 data of 2015-16, the fertility rate (or the total number of children born to a woman) for all categories except “others”, which is mostly upper castes, is three or more. The fertility rate of scheduled castes was 3.1, of scheduled tribes 3.6, that of OBC 2.8 while for ‘others’ it was 2.3. Scheduled castes comprise roughly 21% of the state’s population and Muslims about 20%, while scheduled tribes are a negligible 0.1% of the population.
Religion-wise, the fertility of Hindus was 2.7 in 2015-16 and that of Muslims was 3.1. While fertility would have gone down a little across all communities, since the total fertility of the state came down from 3.1 in 2016 to 2.9 in 2018 according to SRS data, the relative difference is unlikely to have changed much.
The NFHS-4 data on birth order showed that the highest proportion of births which were third, fourth or higher order children (61.5%) was among women with no schooling. This reduced steadily with the increasing education level of women — 49% among women who had completed five years of schooling, 36.4% among those who completed 5-9 years of schooling and about 25% among those who completed 10-11 years of schooling.
The lowest proportion of births of the third or fourth child or beyond was among women who had completed 12 years of schooling, just 13%, reflecting a well-established finding that fertility reduces with increasing level of education of parents, especially the mother. UP is fifth from the bottom when it comes to literacy according to the latest National Statistical Office report of 2017-18 with just 63.4% of women being literate. Among religious groups, Muslims have the lowest literacy level, just 37% of Muslim women in the 2011 census.
Higher fertility has been established as a feature of poor socio-economic development or deprivation. This is borne out by the proportion of women in different caste groups who had a third or fourth child in the three years preceding the NFHS. It was 47% among tribals, 46% among Dalits, 41% among OBCs and 36.5% among ‘others’. It was over 50% among Muslims, 39% among Hindus and barely 15% among Sikhs, the most affluent among religious groups.