The Eighties

The release of the Census results in 1981 shook the nation out of a stupor: Our population was growing at the rate of 15 million annually, much more than the earlier projections of 12.5 million. The effect was renewed political commitment towards family planning. Not only was family planning included in the Prime Minister’s 20-point programme, but appeals were made to the nation’s diverse political leadership to de-politicise family planning and work unitedly for its promotion. The government also set up a Population Advisory Council to suggest changes in the infrastructure and organization of family planning services to make them responsive to people’s requirements. These efforts resulted in the year 1982 being officially described as “a year of retrieval of credibility”as the FP programme re-established itself as a politically acceptable priority.

 

State-wise campaigns

The foundation’s role in bringing about this renewal of commitment is noteworthy. A statement moved and publicized by it, first elicited the support of leaders of 11 political parties, and set into motion the political consensus of support for the programme. Efforts at sensitizing the Indian Association ofParliamentarians for Population and Development (IAPPD) further stimulated action as the IAPPD initiated extensive state-wise campaigns on the issue of family planning. While the foundation excelled at political engagement and advocacy during this period, it also undertook some innovative and pioneering efforts in the area of research. Some key studies included:

 

  • The role of incentives and disincentives in family planning programmes
  • Infant mortality and its relationship with fertility
  • Pioneering bio-medical research on herbal contraceptives
  • Anti-pregnancy vaccine and injectable male contraceptive
  • Monograph on Population and Development
  • Atlas of the Child in India

 

Monitoring and evaluation systems

The foundation’s strove for excellence by incorporating meaningful monitoring and evaluation systems in its  work as early as 1981. The terms ‘outcome’ and ‘performance linked disbursement’, concepts which are in vogue today, were already a part of  its vocabulary and continue so till date.

 

Adopting an open learning approach, the foundation also drew from global perspectives and experiences. The World Population Conference at Mexico City in 1984 provided such an opportunity to learn from the experiences of others. The lessons showed that countries with the greatest success in slowing population growth generally placed an equally strong emphasis on improvements in education and status of women, together with a wide availability of modern family planning methods.

 

An integrated approach

Taking these lessons forward, the foundation started advocating an integrated approach to family planning. Its focus expanded to promoting, through action research, family planning as a necessary and integral part of maternal and child care.  In 1984, to streamline its  functioning, it re-organized its organogram introducing positions for Director (Programme Development), Director (Evaluation), in addition to the position of Director (Communications), which still exist. The decade  was a period of growth for the foundation.

 

National and international recognition

The foundation's efforts started gaining recognition both nationally and internationally. Nationally, the government’s openness to the non-governmental sector allowed the foundation to build an effective, cooperative and collaborative relationship with the government. Internationally, it gained increased access to both knowledge capital and financial resources. Its increased visibility is reflected in the fact that:

  • The foundation was called by the Union government to assist it in the formulation of new approaches and strategies to address the population issue.
  • It was asked by the PM’s Secretariat to prepare a report on the effectiveness of current family planning communication efforts and suggest improvements  and other measures to gear up the FP programme and mobilize general support.
  • It received a grant of $200,000 from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada for a collaborative study on infant mortality and its relationship with fertility.
  • In 1986, the United Nations  approved the foundation as an Associate, which allowed it free access to important documents, reports and literature connected with FP/population Issues. It also meant that the foundation would be consulted on policies and development strategies in this area.
  • In 1987 it started a quarterly newsletter Focus on Population

 

Advocates for focus on northern states

However, despite these successes, throughout the Eighties the  foundation voiced grave concern over the inadequate efforts and commitment on the issue of family planning by the government as well as by other sectors, especially industrial houses. It started advocating for increased focus on the five northern states which were showing a high population growth rate, increased engagement with the youth (it initiated a comprehensive project with the Nehru Yuva Sangathan) and also stepped up efforts to mobilize industrial leadership.