Tuesday, Aug 05, 2003
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By Aarti Dhar
The 79th Constitutional Amendment Bill, tabled in December 1992 by the then Health and Family Welfare Minister, M.L. Fotedar, proposed to "disqualify a person from being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament or either House of the Legislature of a State, if he (or she) has more than two children.''
Although the amendment Bill could not be passed, six States, including Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, follow the norm at the Panchayat level.
The Bill is an amendment to Articles 102 and 191 of the Constitution that lay down the disqualifications of persons for being chosen as, and for being members of Parliament and State legislatures. Besides, the Bill would mean an insertion of new provisions in Articles 47 of the Directive Principles of the State Policy and Article 51-A of the fundamental duties of the citizens to provide for promotion and adoption of small family norm.
The Bill, still pending in the Rajya Sabha, was to be applicable prospectively and hence would not apply to any person having more than two children on the date of commencement of the proposed amendment or within one year of the commencement of the amendment. Even giving a child in adoption was no escape from disqualification with the only exception being the birth of more than one child in a single delivery, in case the person had only one child and the children (twins or more) were born within one year of the commencement of the amendments.
"We in the National Commission on Population (NCP) believe that the Government programmes and policies are implemented better if followed by the public servants, elected or otherwise,'' says the NCP member-secretary, Surendra Nath. Pointing out that the Bill could be revived any time, Mr. Fotedar says that it had been drafted to lend more credence to the programme for population control and effectively demonstrate the political will and commitment for population control.
"There is a need that public offices, particularly elected offices, should be occupied by those who, by example, demonstrate their awareness of the gravity of this problem and personally address it,'' he says. Mr. Fotedar strongly believes that this constitutional measure would also help in placing the matter high on a priority agenda of the nation, and create a favourable climate for emergence of a national consensus cutting across political, religious, social and cultural diversities leading to the much-needed social transformation.
There had been an elaborate debate before the Bill was drafted and it was realised that if passed, it could be a major tool in promoting the small family concept without violating any religious sentiments.
The Bill had been cleared by the Cabinet, a Cabinet sub-committee and even the National Development Council but unfortunately, not Parliament.
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