“Family planning refers to practices that help individuals or couples to attain certain objectives’.
(a) to avoid unwanted births,
(b) to bring about wanted births,
(c) to regulate the intervals between pregnancies,
(d) to control the time at which births occur in relation to the ages of the parent; and
(e) to determine the number of children in the family. “Family Planning as a Basic Human Right
The United Nations Conference on Human Rights at Tehran in 1968 recognised family planning as a basic human right. The World Conference of the Women’s Year in 1975 also declared – “the right of women to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information and means to enable them to exercise that right.”
Scope of Family Planning Services
It is unfair to think that family planning is just equal to birth control. In fact, it is something more than mere birth control. WHO Expert Committee  has stated that family planning includes in its purview the following aspects 1. the proper spacing and limitation of births, 2. advice on sterility, 3. education for parenthood, 4. sex education, 5. genetic counselling, 6. premarital consultation and examination, 7. carrying out pregnancy tests, 8. marriage counselling, 9. preparation of couples for the arrival of their first child, 10. providing services for unmarried mothers, 11. teaching home economics and nutrition. 12. providing adoption services. These activities vary from country to country according to national objectives and policies with regard to family planning.
The Renaming of “Family Planning Programme” as “Family Welfare Programme”:
The Government of India evinced greater interest in controlling population growth in 1976. During the emergency [1976-78] compulsory sterilisation was carried on at great speed through coercive measures in various places in North India. For example, in 1976, more than 76 lakh sterilisations were carried out against a target of 43 lakh.
Coercive methods adopted for the implementation of the programme during this period resulted in people’s discontentment. Hence the Janata Government, which came to power soon after emergency, wanted to follow a soft policy.
It announced a comprehensive population policy in that year. Family planning programme was renamed as “Family Welfare Programme. This welfare programme has experienced several ups and downs in its performance over time.
Government’s efforts at controlling population through family planning/welfare programm have not yielded consistent results. The programme has experienced several ups and downs in its performance over time. For example, the number of sterilisations increased from around 7000 on 1956 to 1.84 million in 1970-71.
This figure increased to 2.19 million during 1971-72 but it came down to 0.94 million during 1973-74. This decline was particularly due to abandonment of camp approach. During the emergency period [1975-77] sterilisation performance of sterilisations was really good [about 8.26 million sterilisation cases in 1976-77 alone].
The performance of sterilisation came down particularly after emergency. But the trend nowadays is slowly changing in favour of family welfare programme. Particularly, in the nineties the total programme seems to have greater acceptance among the public.
The Central Government has been investing more and more money for the implementation of the family welfare programmes through its five year plans. The Government, for example, spent a meagre amount of Rs.65 lakhs for this purpose in the First Five Year Plan. The Government, however, started spending more and more money towards the programme in the other Plans.
For example, it spent Rs.27 crores in the Third Plan, Rs.497 crores in the Fifth Plan, Rs.1,010 crores in the Sixth Plan, Rs.3,221 crores in the Seventh Plan and Rs.6,792 crores in the Eighth Plan. The Ninth Plan allocated Rs. 14,194 crores for this programme.
Uneven Response of the States for the Family Welfare Programme
A state-wise break-up of the figures indicates that while some states notably Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Haryana and Tamil Nadu are forging ahead in the direction of family planning, some other states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jammu Kashmir, etc. are lagging behind.
Difficulties Involved in the Implementation of the Family Planning
(i) Birth control is associated with a high standard of living, but in India it is very low.
(ii) The available contraceptives are not safe, cheap and easily available.
(iii) Due to administrative and organisational defects, the message of family planning programme has not reached properly the remotest corners of the country where it is all the more needed.
(iv) Illiterate and ignorant people have failed to understand the significance of the programme.
(v) Traditional-minded Indians look at the programme with disfavour and suspicion. This, they feel, strikes at the very root of their belief or faith in God.
(vi) The use of contraceptives requires privacy in the houses, which is not found in some large joint families.
(vii) Finally, the success of the programme depends upon the integrity, sincerity and honesty of the officials engaged in the programme. It is unfortunate, that these officials themselves are not much serious about it.