By Patrick B. Craine

NEW DELHI, India, July 31, 2009 ( – India's Health and Family Welfare Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, has proposed two new schemes this month to control India's population.  Last week, he called for couples to postpone marriage until after 30 years of age, reducing the woman's fertile years. Earlier this month he also said that late-night television should be exploited to keep couples from procreating.

Mr. Azad has called for more efforts to be made to get electricity to more of the rural population.  “If there is electricity in every village,” he said, “then people will watch TV till late at night and then fall asleep. They won't get a chance to produce children.  When there is no electricity there is nothing else to do but produce babies.”

He said, further, “Don't think that I am saying this in a lighter vein. I am serious. TV will have a great impact. It's a great medium to tackle the problem … 80 per cent of population growth can be reduced through TV.”

Professor Arvind Pandey of the Indian Association for the Study of Population agreed, while adding, “But it is the education and empowerment of women that is key.”

India's current population is approximately 1.1 billion and, despite numerous efforts by government to control it in the last 50 years, including a forced sterilization program in the 1970s, continues to rise with an estimated fertility rate of 2.7.  Many, including Azad, fear that the country's resources will not be able to meet the demands of the growing population.

Indian Catholic Bishops disagree, however, and are, in fact, encouraging couples to have children.  The Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council announced at the beginning of July that they were initiating a campaign to offer medical interventions against infertility, including reversing tubal ligations.

In 2008 the Bishops opposed a state family planning bill that would penalize families for having a third child.  In August 2006, further, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil issued a pastoral letter urging the faithful to have more children.

See related coverage:

Indian Bishops' Council to Support Family 'Unplanning'

Kerala Cardinal Says “Loose Catholic Doctrine” From West Has Influenced Indian Catholics to Accept Contraception