April 15th, 2008 05:48 AM
"guns for your manhood..."
India offers firearms permits for vasectomies - Times Online
India offers firearms permits for vasectomies
Rhys Blakely in Bombay
A scheme that trades one male status symbol for another has achieved a large rise in the number of men undergoing vasectomies in a bandit-ridden region of central India.
Shivpuri district in the state of Madhya Pradesh, an overpopulated area renowned for its machismo culture, has started to offer fast-tracked gun licences for those who agree to be sterilised.
“This is a state with a high number of dacoits [bandits], where people like to keep rifles,” Manish Shrivastav, the administrative chief of Shivpuri and originator of the lateral thinking behind the plan, said.
“It also has a low level of vasectomies because of a perceived notion of manliness. I decided to match that with a bigger symbol of manliness — a gun licence. It has been a success.”
The results are impressive: 139 men have undergone vasectomies in the district since the incentive of a firearms permit was introduced a month ago, compared with only eight in 2007.
There are hopes that a vasectomy “mega-camp” planned for next month will draw in another hundred or so, Dinesh Kaussal, Shivpuri’s chief medical officer, said. “It is a simple thing. No admission into hospital is required. After a few days a farmer can go about his normal work.”
Those who undergo the operation can still have their application for a gun licence turned down, but the chance they are given to jump the queue and be considered before their fertile peers is, it seems, a powerful incentive. Up to 15,000 people apply each year for a gun permit in Shivpuri, but only about 500 are granted.
There are also suggestions that participating men are becoming vasectomy evangelists. “It was believed that a vasectomy decreases your sexual powers,” one recent out-patient said. “But there is no weakness, which is a good thing.” There is, however, some way to go before Shivpuri, which has about 1.4 million people, hits the target handed down to it by the Indian Government of 1,000 vasectomies a year.
The goal is designed to help to lower the average birth rate per couple to 2.1 children from the current five and underscores the pressure India is under to slow the growth of a population that has trebled since the 1940s.
Despite a recent economic boom, the sub-continent is still dogged by poverty. Two thirds of its 1.1 billion people live on less than £1 a day and half are under 25 years old. Economists are now giving warning that the nation’s population growth — of about 1.5 per cent a year — is outpacing its ability to increase crop yields.
Shivpuri faces several problems that are common across the country: water is scarce and family plots of land are growing smaller by the generation as they are divided equally between each father’s sons. High birth rates are also contributing to high levels of female infanticide, Mr Shrivastav said.
Bodies including the UN agree that urgent measures are needed if India is not to run out of food and water.
Mr Shrivastav shrugged off the possibility of a flood of weapons in an area where it is not unknown for minor family feuds to grow into gunfights. “I have the power to cancel gun licences, also,” he noted.
The recent death of a notorious bandit leader, Rambabu Gadaria, who was shot by police, has led to a large fall in the number of abductions and raids in Shivpuri, he added. Gadaria was being hunted by the authorities for his part in 35 murders and more than 100 kidnappings — a tally that explains why guns are so sought after in the region.
Mr Shrivastav believes that other districts should consider his scheme: “Wherever you go, you know, the psychology of men remains the same.”
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