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Framing the poor: population, elite interests, and the persistence of population control in India

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The paper examines why, despite a rhetorical shift towards a developmental approach to population issues in India, Malthusian ideology continues to dominate and influence the often heavy-handed efforts of the state to control population growth – largely among vulnerable social groups. An examination of Indian population policies, program implementation, and the population debate represented in the mainstream print media demonstrates that Neo-Malthusian population control measures in India are supported by influential external organizations and elites in India as a way to advance their own sectional interests. Malthusian arguments in India exploit or contribute to the deepening of long-standing social and religious divides. Though often using the language of development, population programs shaped by Malthusian ideology have harmed poor Indians – especially women – by directly abusing them and by diverting resources from initiatives for broad socio-economic improvement that would promote positive demographic change without coercion.
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