Speech on the occasion of Silver Jubilee celebrations of the Jabalpur Branch of the Family Planning Association of India, Jabalpur. dated 5 10-1985.
I know I am greeting a band of people who are carrying on an unequal battle. There is no merit in swimming with the current. Swimming against it requires courage. When we find people doing things which require courage and adventure, we admire them which is why we admire people who attempt to climb Mount Everest or try to conquer Antartica. I would classify the champions of family planning with these people.
Family planning, particularly in India, is very difficult to promote and, therefore, those who have been engaged in it deserve all praise. The Jabalpur branch has been carrying on this task for the last 25 years, and they have to their credit considerable achievements. According to their assessment these might be very big but when we compare them with the task before us they become an insignificant speck.
Family planning is the bed rock for all our planning. We are now implementing our seventh plan. We have successfully gone through six plans, and yet, when we look back, the problems which we were trying to tackle in 1950 have almost similar magnitude. The problem may be of poverty, health care, housing or education, when we look back we find that we are not even half way towards the top of the mountain.
Take for example, education. In 1950, when we had 380 million people, 300 million were illiterate. Only 22 lakh children were attending schools. During the last
three decades, we increased our educational facilities many fold particularly for school education by 1700%. And, do you know the number of people who were illiterate in 1980? To be exact, in 1981 there were 450 million illiterates an increase of 150 per cent. How did it happen? This is what baffles us.
All our planning for welfare and progress is brought to naught by one factor: the rapid increase in Our population. Our population which was 380 million in 1950 has risen to 730 million in 1981 and it may be 750 million today. The planners estimate that our population, by the end of the century, which is only 15 years hence, would be 1000 million. If we maintain the present rate of progress in augmenting educational facilities we would still have 500 million illiterate people, and India would then be the country with the largest number of illiterates.
By stating this, I am only trying to project the most serious problem that we face: How to control the growth of our population? If the population growth is not controlled, all our planning in all spheres of life to bring prosperity and progress to the future generations will be of no avail. We owe a duty to them and we can fulfil it by restricting the growth of population. Therefore, family planning becomes significant.
Let us look at the problem from a different angle. Has any one the right to bring into existence life which one is not able to support? Every religion teaches that a human being has something more than the mortal body, a part of the Universal Being. According to some, it may be Atman and Parmatman. Every human being is an Atman, which is a part of the Paramatman. According to some others it may
be the soul, and the Supreme Being. The soul is a replica of the Supreme Being, the non-elemental part of a human being is a part of the Supreme Being. By giving birth to a child, we are bringing into being not only the elemental part of the child but also the non-elemental part which is a part of the Supreme Being. So when the child is not taken care of, are we not insulting the Supreme Being? The present generation must look at the problem from all angles: From the angle of general prosperity as well as from the angle of their own responsibility. Planined parenthood has to become our way of life.
With the conditions prevailing in our country, it is all the more important that the social workers come into the picture. With so much of superstition, obscurantism, ignorance and poverty in our country the job of the social workers who take up family planning is really a big crusade against heavy odds.
So far, most of our efforts have been limited to urban and even there to the middle and the upper middle classes, while the movement needs to be taken to the poorer sections, the rural people, the adivasis, the harijans, the people living in jhuggis and to all those living in penury and want. The message of conscious and responsible parenthood needs to be taken to them.
I do hope the Silver Jubilee celebrations will not only induce our friends to make a deeper evaluation of the problem but also inspire them to pick up the gauntlet rather than keep to the fringes of the battle line. Let us fight out the battle successfully so that our Prime Minister’s dream of the 21st century may be realised. The message of responsible
parenthood should register in the minds of the people, rather than the allurements offered under the Government programmes.
I wish and hope that the jubilee will be un occasion for you to prepare yourselves for positive action.