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Indian Officials Use Raffle Prizes to Boost Sterilization Numbers

Officials in a district in India have struck upon the extraordinary idea of offering raffle prizes as a way to encourage members of the nation's growing population to get sterilized, but is the practice legal?

The Ministry of Health in India had already organized a reimbursement process for men and women who experience a "loss of earnings" for undergoing the medical procedure. Those who bring willing participants to clinics for the procedure are also financially reimbursed.

In Rajasthan district in Jhunjhunu, officials, apparently desperate to get the Asian country's swelling population under control, have now turned to offering raffle prizes for those who visit sterilization clinics.

Once the procedure is completed, participants are entered into a contest in which they have a chance to win Tata Nano cars, television sets, motorbikes, electric food blenders, and other items, according to British newspaper The Independent.

According to Sitaram Sharma, the chief medical officer in Rajasthan, there was a statewide goal of sterilizing one percent of the population.

"Last year around 10,000 people had the operation [in Juhnjhunnu district], but the target was 16,000," Sharma told the British paper. "This year the target is 21,000 but I don't think we will reach it."

India, about one-third the size of the United States, is home to nearly 1.2 billion people. It is second to China, which has a population size of about 1.3 billion people, according to the latest figures from the CIA World Factbook. The United States has the world's third largest population, with a relatively modest population of just over 313 million people.

The prize program may be controversial, but according to officials the raffle does not violate any laws.

This is not the first time officials in India have turned to controversial methods to get their booming population under control.

In 2004 it was revealed that officials in three districts in Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state, were offering shotguns and revolvers in exchange for sterilizations. The program reportedly led to people being duped into undergoing the procedure by citizens greedy for the weapons, according to the Guardian.

Although condom use, birth control pills, and male sterilization are encouraged, female sterilization is the most popular form of contraception in India, according to the government's Planning Commission.

In its report on population stabilization for 2007-2012, the commission found that India’s Family Welfare program had placed heavy emphasize on sterilization as the major method of family planning.

Due to aversion to family planning options among the country's Muslims, the commission also suggested that "sterilization should be the last resort than the first one in the contraceptive choices given to the public."

Aparajita Gogoi, of the Center for Development and Population Activities, a Delhi-based NGO, told The Independent that family planning was not socially acceptable in many Indian communities.

"When it comes to availability of family planning, the issues of girls' education and the status of women in that community are interlinked," she told the British paper. "The biggest problem is that people do not have access to information about family planning and the services available."

Those struggling financially have reportedly been undergoing sterilization procedures, citing the rising price of groceries and rent.

"When I had my children, I did not have to worry about feeding them, but these days there are many price rises, for vegetables, sugar, the rent," Bhateri Devi told The Independent.

The United Nation expects India's population to surpass China's by the year 2045, swelling to 1.5 billion persons.

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