RSS president Mohan Bhagwat’s recent comments on the importance of a national population policy that prioritises women’s health and well-being. Multiple arguments in the Sangh parivar about population issues resulted in a bill that addresses falling total fertility rates as well as religion-based demographic imbalances. Senior RSS officials stated there was a need for the RSS to adequately define its demographic concerns, particularly with the census approaching, and Bhagwat’s extensive discussion was a move in that direction.
According to Pramukh Sanchalika V Shantha Kumari of the Rashtra Sevika Samiti, the women’s organisation has been able to reach out to a large number of women in the last three years, and issues of societal interest are discussed on a regular basis at the organization’s prabuddha (intellectual) meetings.
“There is a widespread belief that we are backward and traditional.That is not correct. We are addressing the concerns of working women and aim to make it easier for them to raise children. We’re doing all we can to figure out why our ladies don’t want to have more children, and what society can do about it.It is encouraging that the population is stabilising, but it must not go below a certain threshold, or the society would suffer “She stated.
Apart from counselling sessions for women, the organisation has been speaking with attorneys and successful individuals in order to persuade businesses to provide day-care and creches as required by policy. “We don’t want educated women to throw away their credentials. We’re also talking to swayamsevaks about starting a debate about how men might support their wives “Kumari stated.
She went on to say that the organisation is especially reaching out to these ladies and assisting them in connecting with neighbourhood families in order for them to receive assistance. “Western feminism teaches us to despise males, but Indian philosophy is different. It encourages us not to be individualistic and to work for society rather than compete with one another,” Kumari added. She also stated that mothers should not be afraid to take a few years off when their children are young. These are formative years, and the mother’s role is crucial. What women should do is search for jobs that enable them to be flexible for a few years.”
RSS officials observe that the minor fall in Hindu fertility rates has sparked several discussions inside the Sangh, with an important session on the subject even taking place at the recently convened samanvay baithak (coordination meeting) in Raipur, which was also attended by BJP president JP Nadda. The topic is also expected to be discussed at the forthcoming Sangh leaders’ conference in Prayagraj.
According to a senior sangh functionary, before Bhagwat spoke on the issue on Vijayadashami, senior sangh leaders studied all aspects of the debate, including the declining TFR among Muslims, and advised top functionaries even in affiliated organisations to refrain from making communal statements or even asking Hindu women to bear three-four children.
“It is a significant health concern, and we must be aware of it.” We recognise that the fertility rate is decreasing across groups, but we want to make sure that the Hindu population does not go below two since we may have fewer young people in the next fifty years than other communities,” he added.
The government’s plan to raise the marriageable age of women from 18 to 21 was also discussed during the conference, and while the RSS has been opposed to it, several members spoke in favour of the law. “Muslim females marry before the age of 18, whilst NFHS data shows Hindu women marry after the age of 18.
Muslims live through three generations, whilst Hindus live through just two. If there is a standardised marriage age of 21, it will handle TFR,” the functionary mentioned above noted.
It is important to note that all religious groups in the country have seen a drop in TFR in recent years; in the Hindu community, the TFR fell from 3.3 in NFHS-1 to 1.94 in NFHS-5, while the fertility rate, while highest among Muslims, has been steadily declining over the years; it was 4.4 in 1992-93, and it is now 2.3. Many scholars have pointed out that changes in various states had varied TFRS, showing that it was more reliant on area, access to health and education, socioeconomic indices, and not religion.
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- Gaurav is working as an Independent Researcher based in Delhi.
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