Propaganda, Policy, Population

By Rahma A. Hossain

Throughout this piece, no names were taken, except for the directors because somehow I felt a million lives lost and the mothers who were wronged upon are somehow lost and forgotten.

7.9 Billion, is the estimated number of people that dwell on earth as of 2021. The population, however, is not evenly spread out, more than half of it is concentrated in the developing and underdeveloped states, the third world nations. Throughout their struggle for sustenance and economic stability, these nations have developed numerous policies and laws all to escape from the vicious circle of overpopulation-unemployment-poverty.

In the year 1980, amidst an impending economic crisis, the People's Republic of China did something similar. Thus, began the era of the One-Child Policy. Up until recently, this policy and its effect were limited to external reports, books and media depictions, but in 2019 a documentary film was made by directors Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, both born in the One Child Era. The documentary had everything we needed to assess the country after the One Child Policy was implemented. It was a war on population and millions of lives were permanently altered through its course of action and implementation. The documentary gives us the glance we need and may already know of the Chinese society and the impactful governance that demands unquestionable allegiance of every man, woman and child in the country. The ground-shaking realities, portrayed in the film, of what happened a few decades back is astounding. We are sucked into what happened back then, through video clippings, images, personal experience accounts of government officials, midwives, parents who lost their children, siblings who lost their sisters, artists, journalists and many others.

But however ‘noble’ and ‘necessary’ the need for this policy would have been, the execution plan it followed was what raised questions regarding the humanitarian aspect of the policy. The population war somehow alienated its root, the people, empathy towards individual choices and their lives. But however negative and extreme its implications were, it was accepted as necessary and followed as the only path to survival! There comes propaganda, something that Nazi Germany did, something regimes have done historically to make people obey, “willfully”.

There were posters from the family planning department of the central government, which read that a happy family is one with one child. This message was everywhere, in advertisements, books, street plays, even nursery rhymes. We get a sneak peak not just into governance but the deeply woven patriarchy in Chinese society. There are accounts of parents and family members who left their daughters in the streets or often gave them away to human traffickers if they felt they deserve a chance at life. This somehow led to one of the largest human trafficking/adoption chains in the world, which was criminalised and dehumanised initially but later became state-sponsored and recognised businesses.

The documentary shows how government regulations are considered good for the state, but the question that lies ahead was, who will take the responsibility of all those infants that were killed, of the women who were sterilised like pigs and why is it just the women who were sterilised? Looking back in time to the one-child era, this one artist will forever be remembered, the only one who commemorated the infants who were dumped as garbage and paid respect to their bodies.

Like all developing states, India too is formulating and is about to state-wise implement a two-child policy on developmental grounds. The effect of which can only be determined with time and future actions. So are we ready for the war on population?