Indian Government and Family Planning, late 1940s-early 1950s

The Margaret Sanger Papers
Last updated
Feb. 8, 2011, 10:05 a.m. (view history)

India's government

[33] There have been a lot of advances and pressures on family planning since the 1948 Cheltenham Congress, but "Governments have so far failed to initiate positive population policies in relation to the resources of their respective areas. Dissemination of family planning knowledge is still in the hands of voluntary organizations, inadequately supported and ill-equipped for tackling this problem on a large scale." Discusses the creation of the ICPP to establish connections with PP workers in various countries and "clarify the legal and practical difficulties that  impede the introduction of family planning and sex education programmes." They are in contact with 48 countries with a regular exchange of information. 

India has a "special need" because "the population is increasing at the rate of nearly five million a year, and where the already inadequate food resources have recently been depleted by a series of natural calamities." S. Chandrasehkar says that there is no organized resistance to FP in India, "apart from the general rural conservatism of the masses that offers resistance to every reform." Indian religions do no oppose planned parenthood.  They do live under "backward conditions. Matters like bathrooms, running water, privacy, the cheapness, reliability and availability of contraceptives [34] and the illiteracy of the women need attention." Before independence, India dealt with these problems through the Health Survey and Development Committee (Bhore Committee) and the National Planning Commission set up by the Indian National Congress during WW2. Bhore Committee recommended that when injury to mother or infant is likely, contraceptive information should be provided in child and maternity welfare centres, dispensaries, hospitals, and any other public institutions which administer medical aid to women." Recommended that contraceptives be made available free of charge in cases of economic difficulties, and that public funds be used to research more effective methods.

National Planning Commission (NPC) advised a policy to encourage family planning and limitation of family size. They also encouraged sterilization of "persons suffering from transmissible diseases of a serious nature." No action has been taken since Independence on these issues, despite the fact that Nehru, who headed the NPC is now Prime Minister.  Hougton claims that the reason might be that other ministers oppose family planning, and that the Minister of Health "has not spoken in favour of it." Says that provincial health officers and smaller government units are the ones who have to actually make the services available, and so far they haven't. 

Other departments have been more supportive--Ministry of Information put out a film Planned Parenthood that explains the idea of limiting children to give those born a better chance; they lecture soldiers in the army and air force, and are trying out clinics at Army and Air Force stations. In Hyderabad the State Govt propagandizes FP through its Bureau of Health, Education and Propaganda and a FPA was set up by Governor Vellodi's wife, who opened a clinic at the Central Military Hospital. In East Punjab, they have made FP training part of the medical curriculum and the Director of Health Services is working with IPPF. In Mysore, clinics were established as long ago as 1930--the first Government controlled clinics in the world. In Madras the AIWC has formed a Family Planning Committee. In Bombay the Municipality established two free birth control clinics in 1947and there are 4 now. In Poona they also established a free birth control clinic.  In Bombay they estimate 3K married people have used the clinics, "not an encouraging response" given the size of the city. They need more propaganda from doctors, nurses, social workers, "to persuade the poorer sections of the benefits of family planning." The new FPA, under presidency of [35] Dhanvanthi Rama Rau, is starting valuable work, but as few doctors and social workers have taken up the work, there is much to be done.

Elsewhere people can get care in hospitals, dispensaries and welfare centers, "but the responsibility for doing so usually rests with the doctor or other person in charge. Facilities therefore vary between one centre and another in the same area." Some private facilities offer help, but it doesn't reach those that need it most.

BC's most "vigorous advocates" are found among voluntary workers, and it is the same in India. AIWC repeatedly passed resolutions in favor of birth control; Sanger invited to speak to them in 1936; How-Martyn visited India for 3 years in succession, and between her and MS, "they covered thousands of miles in India, giving many lectures and demonstrations." The FPA has carried on this work; and now India needs to decide how to shape its population problem. Says that much of the hesitancy is because of the cost of contraceptives, and the West could help India by creating a cheap and simple method that works.