China has its controversial one-child policy. But in India, health officials in the state of Rajasthan are taking a very different steer on population control, offering a swag of prizes – TVs, food processors and even a free car – to compatriots who step up to be sterilised.
The innovative scheme follows recent predictions that India, home to 1.21 billion people, will soon pip China as the world’s most populated country.
In Rajasthan – India’s largest state by area, also known as "Land of the Kings" – authorities are banking on the lottery to remedy flagging sterilization targets.
On Friday, Pratap Singh Dutter, deputy chief medical officer of Jhunjhunu district told AFP: "Everyone who gets sterilized between today and 30 September will be entered into a lottery to win prizes. We felt we were falling behind on our sterilization targets of 21,000 per year, so the district collector came up with this idea. We hope at least 6,000 people will come forward in the next 3 months."
As the BBC reports, the offer is open to all Indians and not just residents of the drought-prone northern state.
Up for grabs: a Tata Nano, billed as the world’s cheapest car at about $3,000, alongside 21-inch televisions, motorcycles and food processors.
While authorities claim they have not received any complaints about the campaign, family planning advocates from the non-profit Population Foundation of India are not enamored with the plan, telling AFP it amounted to "coercion by a different name".
"Besides, how can how can you sustain it?" said the foundation’s Sona Sharma, who warned against the rush to meet sterilization targets. "You can't give a Tata Nano every six months to people."
The rewards-for-sterilization scheme is not the first to raise eyebrows. In 2009, The Times reported Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s plan to redouble the country’s efforts to bring electricity to all of its rural population in the name of population control.
"If there is electricity in every village, then people will watch TV till late at night and then fall asleep. They won’t get a chance to produce children," Mr Azad said at the time. "When there is no electricity, there is nothing else to do but produce babies.
Recent United Nations projections, carried by the Daily Mail, show India could overtake China and its 1.34 billion people as the world's most populous nation by 2030.
Today, India’s population is almost on par with the combined populations of the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Japan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.