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  • Population Foundation of India

    The Genesis/ Who, When, Why and How?

    The Population Foundation of India (formerly the Family Planning Foundation) was established in 1970 by a group of enlightened, socially committed and philanthropically inclined industrialists led by Mr JRD Tata and Dr Bharat Ram. It was in response to meet a pressing need for an independent body to respond to the challenge of population.

    Vision of the Founding Fathers:

    It was the belief of the Foundation’s founding fathers that a movement of social development, such as family planning, should not remain the concern of only the Government. The idea was to supplement and complement the efforts of the government for family planning and also galvanise voluntary action through meaningful support activities.

    The Foundation has, therefore, always worked in close cooperation and coordination with official agencies and programmes. In its independent role, it has tried to guide and influence the national population policy and to serve as a catalytic agent to promote programmes at different levels directed towards the ultimate goal of population stabilisation. The Foundation’s activities in the words of the late Mr JRD Tata, have been focused on “advancing the cause of human welfare through family planning”.


    It grew out of the realisation that the magnitude and the complexity of India’s population problems called for igniting voluntary efforts to supplement the Government’s programme.

    A two-fold rationale underpinned this undertaking:

    • Enlisting the cooperation of the best available national talent and institutions in different areas of population concern in order to strengthen the Foundation’s initiatives and

    • Undertaking population research as an integral element of the development spectrum, but with the main focus remaining on population stabilisation.

    The aims and objectives of the Foundation as defined by its founding fathers were to:

    • Help raise the level of family planning beyond its traditional confines by focusing on the variables restricting its operation;

    • Support innovative research, experimentation and social action from the point of view of bringing the grey areas into bold relief and throwing up viable, replicable programme models;

    • Involve the best scientific talent in the country in these efforts;

    • Serve as a forum for pooling of experience and sharing of professional expertise to strengthen and enlarge the operational base of the programme;

    • Support efforts all around to place family planning on a sounder footing; and

    • Assist official and public agencies in the advancement of the cause of promoting human welfare through family planning and other development programmes.


    The 1970s was a period when population growth was seen as an obstacle to social and economic growth. However, PFI recognised that the need of the hour was to engage in advocacy and effectively communicate the large benefits of a small family. The members felt that as a non-governmental organisation, their role called for the adoption of an approach that was both flexible and innovative on family planning.

    They focused their effort on supporting:

    • Research projects which were innovative and experimental, developmental in orientation or had demonstration or replicative value.

    • Projects that filled a gap or had some implications for population policy and programme planning. Their objective was to promote, through research and demonstration projects, family planning among needy couples as a means of ushering in the small family norm in the country.



    Development Communication

    It developed a number of communication programmes, particularly for policy makers and political leaders to stimulate their meaningful involvement in family planning. The film Parvati produced by the Foundation in 1978 highlighted the issue of the small family norm and won the National Award for the best promotional film.

    University Clubs:

    The Foundation supported programmes that focused on youth and adolescents as also urban centres, both issues considered of paramount importance today. It supported a programme that formed University Population Clubs where youth and adolescents were oriented on issues of family planning and a programme that supported urban community development.

    Contraceptives for Men:

    The biggest contribution of the Foundation in the decade was in biomedical research, where it not only focused on contraceptive methods for women but also men.

    Policy Advocacy:

    It took policy advocacy to a new level, when it formed an inter-disciplinary committee to study the adequacy of the Sixth Plan priorities and allocations. This was the first ever attempt made by an independent organisation to examine the planning process with special reference to population.


    In 1978, the Foundation set a high-powered independent evaluation committee to review its performance. Its findings recommended that the Foundation widen its base, increase its visibility, undertake more effectual policy advocacy and work towards replicating social action programmes.


    The 1981 Census results revealed that the population was growing at the rate of 15 million annually, much more than the earlier projections of 12.5 million. This led to renewed political commitment towards family planning. During this decade, an increased number of family planning programmes were implemented through the state governments with financial assistance from the central government.



    The Foundation actively associated itself with the Indian Association of Parliamentarians for Population and Development (IAPPD) in organising conferences and seminars at national, state and constituency levels in order to institutionalise their support to the cause of family planning, including extensive state-wise campaigns.


    The Foundation undertook some innovative and pioneering efforts in the area of research.Some key studies included:

    (i) The role of incentives and disincentives in family planning programmes

    (ii) Infant mortality and its relationship with fertility

    (iii) Pioneering bio-medical research on herbal contraceptives

    (iv) Anti-pregnancy vaccine and injectable male contraceptive

    (v) Monograph on Population and Development

    (vi) Atlas of the Child in India

    Monitoring and Evaluation Systems:

    The Foundation strove for excellence by incorporating meaningful monitoring and evaluation systems in its work as early as 1981.

    Learning Approach:

    The Foundation drew from global perspectives and experiences. The World Population Conference at Mexico City in 1984 provided such an opportunity. 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.

    Taking 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, it undertook organisational restructuring to highlight the three pillars on which it rests, viz., Programme Development and Support, Research and Evaluation and Policy Advocacy and Communication.

    National and International Recognition:

    The decade was a period of growth for the Foundation.

    The enabling environment 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. 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 it would be consulted on policies and development strategies in this area.

    Quarterly Newsletter

    In 1987 it started a quarterly newsletter titled 'Focus on Population'

    Advocacy for Focus on Northern States:

    It started advocating for increased focus on the five northern states, which were showing a high population growth rate. It increased engagement with the youth and also stepped up efforts to mobilise industrial leadership.


    During the Nineties, PFI built on its existing strengths while incorporating new perspectives and strategies. Its advocacy at the national level continued as did its effort to engage with the corporate sector.

    Change in Meaning and Scope:

    Family planning as a concept gained new meaning and scope in the 1990s. It enlarged its focus from maternal and child health to include a broader life cycle perspective represented by sustainable human and social development. These changes stemmed from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo and the ICPD Programme of Action. The outcome was the emergence of a perspective on family planning that was gender-friendly and rights-based. The approaches to match this altered perspective included:

    • Focus on unmet needs

    • Prevention and management of RTI/STIs

    • Prevention and management of unwanted pregnancies

    • Focus on ensuring availability and utilisation of services

    • Focus on underserved and neglected populations

    • Client satisfaction, quality of care, quality of family planning services

    • Safe motherhood and survival

    • A target free approach


    UN Population Award, 1992:

    The unique position of the Foundation found recognition when its founder Chairman, JRD Tata was conferred the prestigious UN Population Award. The Foundation was recognised as an affiliate body of Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations with a consultative status.

    Change in Name, 1993:

    Keeping abreast with the times, the Family Planning Foundation changed its name to Population Foundation of India in 1993. The change represented a clear shift from the Foundation’s earlier demographic goal of supporting activities aimed at reducing population growth to supporting activities aimed at improving the quality of their life. It expanded its thrust area to increased work in backward areas, urban slums and rural communities.

    Focus on Women’s Empowerment, 1993:

    With the introduction of the 73rd Amendment Act in 1993, which provided constitutional status to panchayats, PFI started working on training panchayat representatives on issues of reproductive health, family planning, maternal and child health and nutrition. Women’s empowerment became a focus and programmes on adolescent and young people a priority.

    Integration of Health and Development:

    PFI started focusing on integrated health and development projects. This came with the realisation that sustainability was dependent on the inclusion of components which would integrate social and economic development with reproductive health behaviour.

    Promotion of Male Involvement in family planning.

    The JRD Tata Memorial Oration (1995) and JRD Tata Awards (1997):

    In 1990, the Foundation instituted a lecture series under the title, ‘Encounter with Population Crisis’. This was renamed ‘JRD Tata Memorial Oration’ in 1995 after the passing of Mr JRD Tata in 1993. The Foundation invites distinguished international and Indian persons to deliver these lectures once a year. In 1997, PFI launched the JRD Tata Awards in 1997 for the best performing states and districts in the field of reproductive health.


    In early 2000, the government launched its National Population Policy (NPP). PFI played a crucial role in the formulation of the national and state level population policies, especially in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh by organising conferences on population and development issues.

    The Foundation framed its activities and future directions in line with the NPP. This entailed a focus on:

    • Empowerment of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs)

    • Networking with government and non-governmental organisations

    • Implementation of the policy at the state level

    • Advocacy on the role of population in terms of sustainable development and the environment


    The horizon of PFI’s work was expanded to include gender, HIV/AIDS, urban health and scaling up as priorities within its mandate, in response to new realities.

    In 2003, it began its work on the issue of sex selection and pre-birth elimination of females through advocacy for the positive value of the girl child, interlinking the issue of sex selective abortion with human rights.

    In 2004, for the first time, PFI moved beyond advocacy to action at the district and lower levels through advocacy and communication on the issues of missing girls, quality of care in reproductive health services and law, policy and rights.

    Though, over the years, PFI has established itself as a centre of excellence on scaling up, the process for this began in 2006, when efforts were taken forward to scale up reproductive health and adolescent health pilots in India. PFI collaborated with Management Systems International (MSI), the international consultancy organisation which developed a Scaling Up Management (SUM) Framework.

    PFI grew as an advocacy organisation during this period and became part of a number of alliances and networks for advocacy and action such as the National Youth Alliance and the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood.

    The Foundation strengthened its advocacy efforts and carried out intensive campaigns to promote the rights of young people to health care and education in Bihar and Jharkhand.

    Expanding Focus

    The mid-2000s saw PFI take a major leap both financially and technically.

    • In 2005, it became the first ever NGO to work with People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) through CBOs working on the issue.

    • Under NRHM, in August 2005, the government set up the Advisory Group on Community Action (AGCA) as a standing committee to support and advise the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) on community monitoring; the secretariat of the AGCA was housed in PFI and continues to be so even today.

    • In 2009-2010, PFI’s association with the Health of the Urban Poor programme began.

    The first decade of 2000

    was in many ways a period of renaissance for PFI. In terms of financial turnover, staff strength, and scope of work, there was unprecedented expansion on all fronts. Its technical capacities increased to include knowledge and skills of urban health and scaling up management. At the same time, it considerably increased its interface with the government, gained national and global recognition and garnered the support of many international agencies.


    Second Decade of the New Century

    As a learning and dynamic organisation, PFI keeps a close watch on the changes that are taking place in the national and international demographic scenario, planning its policies and priorities, and fine-tuning its strategic agenda and activities in line with the changing perspectives and realities on the ground. The focus has moved beyond promoting family planning as a tool towards achieving the small family norm, to a much wider canvas that includes population stabilisation and sustainable development, using a gender sensitive and rights-based approach. In this canvas, population stabilisation is no longer seen as the sole function of family planning; rather it is seen as the function of overall social development.

    PFI addresses population issues within the larger discourse of empowering women and men, so that they are able to take informed decisions related to their fertility, health and well-being. It works with the government, both at the national and state levels, and with NGOs, in the areas of community action for health, urban health, scaling up of successful pilots and social and behaviour change communication. Emphasising a gender sensitive and rights-based approach, the Foundation collaborates with central, state and local government institutions for the formulation of gender sensitive population, health and development policies and their implementation. 

    It has six areas of priority in family planning: a) delaying age at marriage b) delaying age at first pregnancy c) promoting spacing between births d) improving quality of care of family planning and reproductive health programmes e) preventing sex selection, and f) promoting non-coercive programmes, policies and strategies.


    Emergence of PFI as an advocacy think tank, which is called upon to contribute at various national and international forums, including in development planning.

    Policy advocacy and communication informed by evidence remain the bedrock of PFI’s work.

    Research and evaluation continues to be one of the organisation’s notable pillars and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) play an important role in all its projects.

    The driving focus is to reposition family planning within a women’s empowerment and human rights framework in national development and in the maternal and child health policies and programmes of the country.

    High priority on need to expand choice, improve the quality of family planning services and increase male engagement.

    Support efforts to meet India’s commitments to the FP 2020 goals made at the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning as well as the SDGs 3 and 5.

    Emergence of edutainment as an effective, tested and successful vehicle of catalysing change in social norms and behaviour as indicated by the endline evaluation of Season One of Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon (MKBKSH), PFI’s flagship transmedia initiative. This addresses practices such as sex selection, early marriage, early and repeated pregnancies, under-nutrition of girls, and issues of family planning, reproductive and child health, domestic violence and sensitisation of boys.

    Association with the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK), the National Adolescent Health Programme of the Government through its MKBKSH initiative.

    The Health of the Urban Poor programme (2009-2015), a consortium led by PFI, assisted the government in developing a systematic response for addressing health issues of the growing urban poor population in India.

    Deepening engagement with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the National Health Mission and state governments.

    At the community level, the Advisory Group on Community Action (AGCA) (2005 – ongoing), constituted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), provides guidance and support for community action initiatives under the National Health Mission (NHM).

    PFI is host to the national secretariat of Advocating Reproductive Choices (ARC), a coalition of civil society organisations working in the field of sexual and reproductive rights.

    Current areas of focus include, Social and Behaviour Change Communication, Community Action for Health, Urban Health and Advocacy.