Why Government Hesitates?

Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago

Overpopulation & Family Planning

By D. Napal

It is admitted that family planning is the only solution to over-population. Better cut at the roots of unemployment, poverty, sickness and premature deaths by stemming the tide of overpopulation than to allow these social evils to become rampant and then to find a cure for them. The fine results obtained in countries which have adopted this method to make their economy keep pace with the number of mouths to feed ought to serve as an eye-opener to those at the helm of public affairs in our own colony. Such, however, is not the case.

“The Committee recommended the adopted of a policy of planned parenthood which would enable parents to have “the planned family” according to their resources and particular circumstances. Such a family would not be a burden on the parents and the children would be allowed to lead a decent life and have adequate education…”

The picture of Mauritian life, especially among the common people is dark indeed. The increase in unemployment, the rise in the number of criminals and juvenile delinquents, only to speak of these, show that unless something is done to control the rise of population, we will be heading towards disaster. Yet Mauritius sticks to time-worn and exploded ideas on birth control as was evidenced by the late opposition from some quarters when the question was raised. It is for government to take the matter in hand with less indifference than is actually done.

In April 1953, the Governor appointed a committee of twelve members with the following terms of reference:

“To consider the problem presented by the present trend of increase of population of the Colony in relation to its economic resources and potential productivity; and to investigate and report on the practicability of any methods of resolving the problem.”

The Committee made a detailed analysis of the growth of population, of the causes leading to it and the possible means of averting the ruin bound to come if the population went on increasing without check. It considered the advisability of resorting to immigration and the increase of productivity by the encouragement of subsidiary industries. But it did not feel very enthusiastic about these means of checking the growth of population.

Let figures support our contention. In 1952 the population of Mauritius was 501, 224. It was estimated in 1953 by the Committee in question that in 1957 the population of the island would be 582,890. But overpopulation has gone beyond the fears of the Committee’s Report as it is estimated that the actual population is no less than 585,000. Every thinking man is perplexed: something must be done.

In the light of the detailed study of the question which it conducted, the Committee drew the following conclusion:

“The population of Mauritius will therefore be inexorably faced in the near future with a gradual lowering of its present standard of living because of its too great numbers. The more rapidly will the population growth take place, the quicker will the fall in living standards. And it is generally accepted that low standards of living are not conducive to a restraint in fertility.”

The Committee had taken note of the progress achieved in countries which had adopted the system of planned parenthood for the Report contains extracts from publications favouring planned parenthood. It could, therefore, write with conviction:

“The Committee is well aware that, in any country which, because of the high fertility of its inhabitants was threatened with overpopulation and its attendant afflictions of unemployment, poverty, squalor and famine, the authorities have sought alleviation to the overwhelming pressure of rapid growth in a policy of family limitation.”

Finally the Committee recommended the adopted of a policy of planned parenthood which would enable parents to have “the planned family” according to their resources and particular circumstances. Such a family would not be a burden on the parents and the children would be allowed to lead a decent life and have adequate education. It considered it desirable that information and help on family planning should be made available in government hospitals and health centres.

It also recommended the establishment of family planning clinics in Mauritius conducted by government. It also intimated that that Unesco “would be prepared at the invitation of government, to give assistance at the start by the loan of a working party of specialists and that the International Planned Parenthood Federation would also be prepared to help.” Here are opportunities lost for those who most need family planning.

It should be borne in mind that the bourgeoisie is daily resorting to family planning as it can afford to pay for it. But the irony of it all is that from their ranks come reactionaries who shout loudest against family planning. If Unesco and the International Planned Parenthood Federation are ready to help, why is government indifferent to the immense benefits which would accrue to the poorer people and make their life less dull, drab and miserable.

The Report was published in May 1955. More than two years have elapsed since. Here is one more supreme example of the inertia of our government. Motions are passed in the Council, Committees are appointed, reports are published and there’s no end to many of our problems.

Fortunately few members of the Committee opposed planned parenthood. Among those few was Dr Millien, who came forward as a moralist condemning birth control as an unnatural expedient. He said that “it could be resorted to if we have irrevocable proof that without it Society must go to its ruin.”

What remains to convince Dr Millien? Are not the number of people dying of semi-starvation, the innumerable victims of TB, anaemia and other diseases caused by lack of proper care, enough to appal his sight and benumb his senses? What right have the people with particular religious or moral scruples to force their way of thinking on people who can better their conditions without such ideas? May those in whose hands the destiny of this colony lies come down to earth from their high pedestals and see what appalling horrors reign around them.

Friday 6th September 1957
4th Year – No. 161

* Published in print edition on 13 April 2021

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