NEW DELHI: India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, has proposed legislation that aims to discourage couples from having more than two children, becoming the second state ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party to make such a proposal.
If Uttar Pradesh were a country, its 240 million people would make it the world’s fifth-most populous, and population density in the northern state is more than double the national average.
Under the state government proposals unveiled on Saturday, couples with more than two children would not be allowed to receive government benefits or subsidies and would be barred from applying for state government jobs.
The bill says that because of the state’s “limited ecological and economic resources at hand, it is necessary and urgent that the provision of the basic necessities of human life are accessible to all citizens”.
Per capita income in Uttar Pradesh is less than half the national average.
While the draft ostensibly seeks to raise awareness over the need to restrain India’s population of 1.34 billion, Its subtext reflects a core belief of right-wing Hindu organizations that Muslims are trying to “overtake” Hindus.
The campaign, underpinned by Islamophobia, is being promoted in the real and online worlds.
Facebook posts spread the conspiracy theory that the number of India’s Muslims – currently about 200 million – will at some point surpass the 966 million-strong Hindu population, as WhatsApp groups share messages stirring fear and hatred.
The draft law, which is open for public comments until July, would need to be ratified by state lawmakers.
India, which is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country by 2027, does not have a national two-child policy.
The northeastern state of Assam, which is also ruled by Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, last month announced plans for a similar measure that would withhold government benefits from families with more than two children.
Assam’s Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said the proposal is partly to control the population growth of the state’s Bengali-speaking Muslims who trace their origins to neighboring Bangladesh.
Uttar Pradesh, governed by Hindu hardliner Yogi Adityanath, is also home to a large Muslim population.
The state’s draft law includes incentives for two-child couples if one of them opts for voluntary sterilization, including soft loans for construction or house purchases and rebates on utility bills and property taxes.