UAE expats split on two-kid policy in Indian state

South Indian expatriates in the UAE debate the proposed population policy in Kerala. They are actively debating the pros and cons of the proposal that recommends stern action including fine and imprisonment for men who father more than two children. This action on the part of Kerala government is a part of a population control rule.

India, the second most populous country in the world with 1.2 billion people, second only to China, is witnessing a population boom. The South Indian state of Kerala, has also seen a rapid population growth over the years and the Government plans to curb the population rise.

Even though family planning schemes have been successfully implemented, further measures need to be regulated. A considerable percentage of the state population migrate abroad, especially to the Gulf, where the middle class have bigger families.

The Christian Church and Muslim organisations in the state are running a campaign against the proposed plan, which is currently only a recommendation.

“Having children is God's gift to mankind and nobody has the right to control it. In the UAE, there is no such rule to control the number of children in a family and Kerala expatriates can have any number of children here. In fact the UAE government gives more incentive to families with more members. Having more children is like having more wealth and both are God's gift. We cannot support the policy,” A K Abubaker Moulavi, Kattippara, President, Marqas Dubai Committee. He said the official view on the matter would be released by organisations senior leaders in Kerala.

The commission has suggested that if there is a consistent violation by people on the two-child norm, then government can make it a penal act and impose a fine of Rs 10,000 (Dh 800) or upto three months imprisonment.

Advocate K Sharathchandra Bose, an Indian advocate in the UAE, said, “For Indian citizens in the Middle East, the population policy in India will be applicable and not the local rule. As the expatriates are from specific minority communities, this will have implications in future. However, I feel such rules should be imposed.”

“Population growth needs to be controlled, but imposing it through legislation is not practical. Such stringent rules will have negative impact. Suppose there are two girl children in a family and the couple wants a boy, will he be imprisoned? It is not practical,” said Biju Abel Jacob, father of two. 

However, for many NRI expatriates, the average children is two, as it gets difficult to take care of them.

While population growth is encouraged in the Gulf countries, where local population is dwindling, the same cannot be applied in India. Due to lack of resources, population growth is putting pressure on employment opportunities, socio-economic development and education.

Family planning has been followed by many people in the state and the overseas

Indian community, who are now debating whether the new rule would affect families who already have more than two kids.

The proposed draft rule by the V R Krishna Iyer says that an Indian family unit of husband and wife should limit its children to two to be legally entitled to receive various social benefits passed by the govt. Justice V R Krishna Iyer Commission on Rights and Welfare of Women and Child, submitted its report to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. According to the report: "within the scope of a lawful wedlock, solemnised after the date of commencement of this Code, each unit of husband and wife shall limit its children to two for entitlement to the advantages the state grants to the members of a family."  

It says government to provide cash incentive not exceeding Rs50,000 (Dh3743.9) to women who marry after the age of 19 and have their first child after they turn 20. Similar amount to be provided on the birth of second child if there’s a spacing of three years in between. It also suggests that couple below BPL who marry after the age of 20 and have their first child born after the mother reaches the age of 21, to receive cash not exceeding Rs5,000(Dh374).

The Kerala Law Commission coming out with a proposal which says that having a third child in the family will incur a fine to the tune of Rs10,000.

South Indians in the UAE are not interested in population control measures proposed in the Draft law, because of religious and economic reasons, said A Sathikumar, journalist from Radio Asia, a Malayalam radio station that conducted special debate on the topic. The debate received mixed reaction from the expatriate population. “Middle class population, are not keen to support strict population control. A section of the expatriates are supporting population control, but opposed strict action against violators of the code, especially imprisonment. They believe more population control measures should be applied to future generations, and not with retrospective effect.

“It affects a family's freedom to have more children. However, without population control, it is not possible to have a healthy nation.”

According to media reports, the population of Kerala went up from 31.8 million in 2001, as per the census, to 33.3 million in 2011.  Women (1.73 million) outnumber men 1.6 million. State had a high population growth rate till 1970-71, But it gradually fell. The growth rate fell to 9.4 per cent at the beginning of 2001 compared to the All-India average of 21.5 per cent. In this period, the state witnessed a dramatic fall in birth and death rates. The fall in birth rate was attributed to the success of family planning and high literacy.


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