Among the most widely reported statements at the International Conference on Family Planning held in Indonesia in January this year was that of the Indian Health Minister JP Nadda who said that the country was committed to meeting the FP2020 goal of providing 48 million additional women and girls with access to modern contraceptives by 2020.
A global partnership, Family Planning 2020, works with governments, civil society and the private sector to enable women and girls to make decisions regarding if, when, and how many children they want.
The Indian Health Ministry team also announced that women would have access to better quality family planning services. A promise that is being met with. Since April, injectable contraceptives and pills are being supplied to all district hospitals across the country.
However, the recent report by the Population Foundation of India points out just how distant that goal of reaching 48 million women and girls is.
While the provision for health in 2016 has grown by 22% over 2015, with FP seeing a substantial increase of 67% compared to previous years, health remains hugely underfunded in India. The rise this year, it points out, is insufficient to compensate for the whopping 54% decline in allocations to family welfare between 2013-14 and 2015-16.
Meeting the 48 million number needs more than simply expanding the basket of choices. It needs awareness campaigns and better rural health facilities to ensure that babies and mothers survive. Campaigns have to be tailored to meet the specific challenges that a country as varied as India throws up.
While the shift away from female sterilization is welcome, there seems to be widespread official myopia in acknowledging just how deep the links between family planning and broader development goals go, and this is disturbing.