31 May, 2017, Bikaner House, New Delhi: Population Foundation of India celebrated 47 years of empowering women by releasing a Monograph, Negotiating the Population Question: An Institutional History of the Population Foundation of India, 1970–2015, that traces the trajectory of the organisation from its inception in 1970 to 2015. Launched at a special event hosted at Bikaner House, it was authored by sociologist Dr Radhika Ramasubban. Delineating the institutional history of the organisation, the monograph captures the forces and influences that shaped its functioning to address current and emerging challenges, using a human rights framework and an empowerment approach.
Launching the monograph, PFI Chairperson Keshav Desiraju said, “The PFI monograph is a blueprint to recall the contribution of men who were way ahead of their time, JRD Tata and Dr Bharat Ram, who recognised the need for us as a nation to have a healthy, wholesome population. Over the years our focus shifted from family planning to family welfare and from family welfare to maternal and child health. But the time has come for us to address public health as a whole; PFI should look at the larger canvas of health.” Mr. Desiraju, an IAS officer (retired) has also served as Secretary Health in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
In her keynote address, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the Director General of the Indian Council for Medical Research acknowledged and commended PFI for its contribution to a rights-based approach to family planning. She said, “The issue is not one of family planning anymore, but really of providing a holistic public health service so that our women, children and men can have a quality life. We need to address boys, very often our messaging is focused on girls and making them self-reliant. But somewhere we have gone terribly wrong in how our boys have been socialised. And we need organisations like PFI to think about how to reach boys and bring about a change in their attitude to women. It is important for them to have positive role models like the one PFI has created for women in their edutainment show Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon. It won’t change overnight but these are our challenges.”
The event included a moderated interactive session with Dr. Leela Visaria and Dr. Rajani R Ved, co-authors of the book India’s Family Planning Programme: Policies, Practices and Challenges. In discussion, Dr. Visaria said, “I think we are overplaying the whole population explosion idea, India’s population will continue to grow, it will touch 1.7 billion before it stabilises. India’s TFR is down to 2.3 and we are not very far from achieving replacement level fertility. Women these days have aspirations, they want smaller families, and while increasing the basket of choice has been a positive step, we need to focus on social indicators like increasing the age at marriage and improving access to education.”
In keeping with the vision of PFI to position family planning as an important issue in India’s development agenda, a short film directed by Feroz Abbas Khan was released. Khan who has been recognised for his work in film and theatre has also been a driving force behind Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon, produced by PFI. The film was launched by Dr. Sikdar, Deputy Commissioner, Family Planning, Ministry of Health and Welfare who stressed on the need to look at population through the lens of the mother and child