Home / Politics / Policy /  Government will promote birth spacing: J.P. Nadda

New Delhi: In a paradigm shift, the government will promote birth spacing by expanding the choice of contraceptives such as injectables, health and family welfare minister J.P. Nadda said at the Fourth International Conference of Family Planning (ICFP) in Bali on Monday. So far, the focus has been on female sterilization.

While addressing the Indian caucus at the ICFP, the minister also reiterated the government’s commitment to meeting the Family Planning 2020 goals and called upon civil society to work together with the government to accelerate progress on achieving the goals.

Family Planning 2020 is an international network of governments, civil society groups and funders with the objective of population control. India is part of it.

The shift in focus will require up to two-and-a-half times more resources. Poonam Muttreja, executive director of non-profit Population Foundation of India, said, “India will need 187.3 billion in the coming four years if the 48 million new users of contraceptives are to be served by the public health system. This is 113.8 billion more than what is projected to be the government budget allocation."

She was quoting a study by Barun Kanjilal, health economist with the Indian Institute of Health Management Research, Jaipur. The study was commissioned by the Population Foundation of India.

C.K. Mishra, additional secretary, ministry of health and family welfare, said, “The government of India is committed to allocating increased resources as required to achieve the family planning objectives. The government is conscious of state-wise inequities and is working to address these."

After decades of focusing on permanent methods of birth control such as female sterilization, the move towards temporary methods to ensure spacing between children is a big policy shift. The first indication to this effect came in September last year when the government announced inclusion of injectable Depo Provera in the family planning programme, which started a debate among public health experts. Some supported the move, while the others questioned its health impact.

Depo Provera is a contraceptive which is injected every three months. It is marketed as an alternative to oral contraceptives, which need to be taken daily.

“Studies show that injectables create hormonal problems for women. Also, we do not have a strong public health system which can do follow-ups to ensure that side effects are controlled among women," said Vani Subramanian of women’s health group Saheli.

Mohan Rao, professor of community health and social medicine at Jawaharlal Nehru University, agreed. “Inclusion of Depo Provera does not increase choice for women in contraceptives. It is like any other in the basket," he said, adding that the policy shift will have no positive impact on family planning.

Of the 396.97 crore family planning budget of 2013-14, 85% was spent on female sterilization and only 1.45% on contraceptives. These figures might change radically in the near future.

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