New Delhi: World population day is observed on July 11 in an attempt to highlight global population issues. The day was stimulated by 'Five Billion Day' celebrated on July 11, 1987 when population across world reached five billion. The governing council at United Nations Development Programme established the day. The current world population is estimated to be 7,025,071,966 (7.025 billion) on July 9, 2012. The theme for World Population Day 2012 is "Universal Access to Reproductive Health Services."
This year, Bill and Melinda Gates foundation in collaboration with the British government are planning an International Family Planning Summit in London. The programme aims at availing various contraceptives to underprivileged women, especially in Africa and South Asia.
India will be represented by top health ministry officials on the issue at the meeting in London on Wednesday.
AR Nanda, former secretary, department of family welfare said, "It is time India took a strong stand on the role of women empowerment in our family planning policies. We cannot expect the women to grow in presence of coercive and targeted approach on population control."
"It will be crucial to see what India's statement will be at the summit. We can't afford to go ahead without tracking the community's needs for a healthcare need like population control," Nanda added.
The National Population Policy, 2000, was designed to address the needs for contraception and implementation of intersectoral operational strategies to achieve a stable population by 2045.
"If the government thinks it can curb population growth by giving a target to states, then it is only going to increase the vulnerability of women in this process. Women have to be at the centre of benefiting from policies rather," Nanda explained.
Members and groups of civil society conducted a nationwide series of consultations to prepare a set of recommendations ahead of the global summit which will be attended by union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
It was widely emphasized that the country needs to take stock of its population policy approach that still considers population as a burden. After openly coercive birth control measures in the 1970s, India has been heavily relying on contraceptives and sterilization other than condoms and other methods.
Abhijit Das, director of centre for health and social justice said, "The problem with our policies is that service providers do not provide enough information about quality and safety of products. Family planning cannot be a supply driven programme where you aim to simply curb numbers."
"For us who have a major population in reproductive age group, we are lacking a significant focus that needs to be on adolescent health and sex education," Das pointed at a discussion.
Experts from civil society organizations such as family planning association of India, population foundation of India, and the hunger project also participated in the discussion.