India's Total Fertility Rate (TFR), or the average number of children a woman gives birth to in her lifetime, has declined from 2.2 to 2 while the Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) has increased from 54% to 67%, according to Phase 2 data of National Family Health Survey-5. The union health ministry released the data on Wednesday and it indicates the country's population is stabilising.
A TFR of 2.1 is considered as the replacement rate, which is a crucial factor in population growth. It ensures the replacement of a woman and her partner upon death with no overall increase or decrease in numbers.
As per the fourth edition of the survey conducted between 2015 and 2016, the TFR was at 2.2 nationally. The fifth survey was conducted between 2019 and 2021 in two phases. It reflects gains made in population control.
VK Paul, member (health), NITI Aayog, said NFHS-5 shows momentum towards achieving sustainable development goals is getting further accelerated. "Data from the survey would help the government achieve Universal Health Coverage."
Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, National Capital Territory of Delhi, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand were surveyed in phase 2. Except for Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, other states surveyed have achieved the replacement level.
The CPR has increased substantially from 54% to 67% at the all-India level. The unmet needs of family planning have declined from 13% to 9%, the survey shows. Spacing that remained a major issue in India has come down to less than 10% in all the states except Jharkhand (12%), Arunachal Pradesh (13%) and Uttar Pradesh (13%).
The government-sponsored family planning programme was launched in 1952 to slow down population growth. It initially faced challenges in terms of faulty strategy that led to women largely using contraceptives. There was also a limited basket of choice of contraceptives for young couples. Officials said the changes introduced over the years has led to improved results.
"India has for long been working on population control. In fact, India was the first country to launch a national-level family planning programme and the encouraging results that we see now are due to sustained, concerted efforts put together by the Centre, and the state governments," said a central government official on condition of anonymity.
The Mission Pariwar Vikas was launched in 2016 for improved access to contraceptives and family planning services. Special focus was given to 146 high fertility districts of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand to ensure the availability of contraceptive methods at all levels.
Experts say the introduction of new reversible spacing methods, wage compensation systems to undergo sterilisation and promotion of small family norms also worked well over the years.
The full immunisation among children aged 12-23 months has gone up from 62% to 76%. The number of women receiving four or more recommended antenatal visits by a health care provider have gone up from 51% to 58%. The institutional births have increased from 79% to 89%. Child nutrition indicators show marginal improvement. Stunting has declined from 38 to 36% and wasting from 21 to 19%. Underweight children have declined from 36 to 32%. Exclusive breastfeeding under six months has improved from 55 to 64%.