Getting quarantined for the coronavirus isn’t exactly a happy event. But the Bihar govt has figured out a way to solve that. Thousands of men and women being released from quarantine centres in the state are being gifted condoms and contraceptive pills!
This is being done to promote the concept of family planning amongst the migrant workers returning to the states, with each even getting Rs.500 in cash.
While this decision may surprise and amuse many, the Bihar govt is doing this as part of a carefully laid-out strategy.
But Why Is Bihar Govt Doing This?
The state has the highest fertility rate in India at 3.4 children per woman, according to the last data published by the National Family Health Survey in 2016. The Bihar govt is using this opportunity to tackle exactly that, in an attempt to reduce it.
Another interesting pattern has been noticed by the state, which explains why the Bihar govt is distributing birth control measures especially to migrant workers coming back to the state. They have noticed a rise in institutional deliveries in the 9 months after March and November. This is explained by the fact that many migrant workers come back to their home state during these months, to spend more time with family during festivals.
Not only this, but the Bihar govt is also using this quarantine as a time to spread awareness about the importance of family planning. While the workers were in quarantine, they were counselled on ways to practice safe family planning.
As a result, the state’s health department collaborated with Asha workers and other health personnel to distribute more than 2 lakh family planning kits to married migrant workers. At the quarantine centres, the health workers have been seen distributing to packets of condoms while they have also been distributed by ASHA workers when they conduct door-to-door screening of migrants.
What The State Government Has To Say On The Exercise
The state government has categorically said that the exercise has the sole objective of creating awareness about family planning amongst the state’s population. In no way, it is related to COVID-19.
Several officials associated with the campaign explain the reason behind the practice.
"We are distributing condoms and contraceptives as we have noticed that nine months after March and November when maximum migrants return for Holi, Diwali and Chhath, there is a big increase in institutional deliveries, but which go down in the preceding and following months," State Health Society executive director Manoj Kumar said.
He also gave reasons for the timing of the event, clarifying that the practice was being down right now to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
“As lakhs of people have returned home due to COVID-19 lockdown, distribution of contraceptives among them is a good initiative for population control,” said Utpal Das, associated with the BSHS.
The decision of the Bihar govt to focus on and spread awareness on family planning is a great one. It would be interesting to see if other states learn from this and follow suit, and use it as a measure of population control.