For a period before the elections, Yoga Guru and business magnate Baba Ramdev had shown considerable ambiguity about his political inclination. It is natural for one anticipating a change in regime and wishing to protect one’s business interests. It seems he feels the need now to reiterate his saffron identity and what better way than to target a particular community in the guise of national interest? So, he has floated the idea of restricting the citizenship rights of anybody who comes from a family with more than two children. These include the right to vote, stand for election, or benefit from any government programmes. This is straight out of the Chinese handbook of governance. He is expecting to be popular with those who believe that Muslims deliberately have a higher birth rate and seek to take over the nation through demographic expansion. (MP Asaduddin Owaisi has reminded him that such a decision would leave Prime Minister Modi without a vote and the right to be elected, being the third son in his family.)
India and China, both, became concerned about the unbridled rise in population over five decades ago. Being a totalitarian state, China enforced the one child policy, which has had many unforeseen consequences, such as a large population of men without any hope of getting married. (Presently an issue in Pakistan is the smuggling out of women to China as sex-slaves or for forced marriages.) Those who resisted the policy suffered exclusion from society of the kind being proposed by Baba Ramdev.
A similar authoritarian approach was attempted at Sanjay Gandhi’s behest during the Emergency, which led to a huge backlash from the population, triggering a major flight of minority voters from the Congress ranks. This loss has never been made up. It led to a more nuanced approach to population control measures, which have worked much better. The idea has been that a better quality of life and higher infant survival rates would persuade people to voluntarily prefer small families – do ya teen bas! Unfortunately, the coming of ultrasound as a means to determine the sex of the unborn child led to selective abortions, skewing the gender ratio.
Even so, the fertility rates have come down in all of India’s communities. It remains high among the Muslims and poor Hindus, but the general direction is downwards. As luck would have it, the large population is now considered a ‘demographic dividend’ expected to make India a wealthy and prosperous country. It only requires that the population be educated and skilled to take advantage of the opportunities, which should be the priority. Baba Ramdev’s advice, therefore, comes some decades too late and his approach has already been greatly discredited.