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Until recently in India if you wanted to own the hip Tata Nano car, you had to shell out the $2500 to buy it. Not so anymore.
This week BBC news announced that the state of Rajasthan is offering free cars to men and women who voluntarily sterilize themselves. It’s part of a newly launched health campaign to control India’s growing population, which is expected to exceed China’s population by the year 2030.
It’s important to note, however, that a free car is NOT guaranteed. Participants are entered into a drawing for prizes including motorcycles, televisions, and get this- blenders.
I read this news story just days after completing Rohinton Mistry’s novel A Fine Balance, which takes place in India during sterilization campaigns enacted by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the 1970s. Thousands of people were sterilized against their will, resulting in infection, disfigurement, and even death for many.
In light of this negative history, I can’t help but wonder how the current campaign really affects the people likely to participate. I respect that it’s meant to be a practical solution and completely voluntary, but how can it be fair for the desperate and poverty stricken enticed by material wealth? I also question whether officials target teenagers who aren’t likely to really understand the health and social ramifications. Finally, I wonder who performs the procedures and what kind of medical follow-up care is provided.
Poking around, I learned about other creative population control programs in India. A few years ago, men living in a dangerous region of central India were offered gun licenses in exchange for vasectomies. I guess the trick to controlling population is to identify what people need now and entice them to give up future offspring for it.