From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published November 22, 2011 09:13 AM

Population Control

In this day and age most societies worry about too large a population increase. However, there is always another point of view. Worried about its dwindling numbers, the Roman Catholic church in southern India is exhorting its flock to have more children, with some parishes offering free schooling, medical care and even cash bonuses for large families. The strategy comes as India’s population tops 1.2 billion, making it the second most populous country in the world after China, and runs counter to a national government policy of limiting family size.


Historically, human population control has been implemented by limiting the population's birth rate, usually by government mandate, and has been undertaken as a response to factors including high or increasing levels of poverty, environmental concerns, religious reasons, and overpopulation. While population control can involve measures that improve people's lives by giving them greater control of their reproduction, some programs have exposed them to exploitation.

In the southern state of Kerala, where Catholics have long been a large, important minority, church authorities believe the state’s overall Christian population could drop to 17 percent this year, down from 19.5 percent in 1991. While they don’t have precise numbers for the Catholic population, they believe it is also dropping sharply.

Christianity is widely thought to have come to India in the year 52, when St. Thomas came to Kerala after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. What remains unsaid in Kerala is that the state’s Muslim population grew by 1.7 percent between 1991 and 2001, while the Hindu and Christian populations have fallen.

Kerala, once a communist bastion and the state with the highest literacy rate, was about 56 percent Hindu, 19.5 percent Christian and 24 percent Muslim in the last census in 2001.

The church in Kerala is also incensed by a bill drafted by a government panel recommending a strict two-child policy to check population growth. The bill — which is unlikely to become a law — suggests three months of imprisonment and a 10,000-rupee ($200) fine for couples with more than two children.

So Kerala’s Catholic parishes have launched a variety of programs, from free education to free medical care, said the Rev. Jose Kottayil of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council. Most begin offering the benefits with the fifth child, but the church helps poorer families with fewer children.

Opinions vary among economists about the effects of population change on a nation's economic health. Recent US scientific research concluded that the raising of a child costs about $16,000 yearly ($291,570 total for raising him/her up to his/her 18th birthday). Costs for other developed countries are usually similar.

It is a fine line to tread. A large population means a large economic and environmental cost. Too small a population may mean losing power or influence.

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