India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh has found that gun licences are more popular than sterilization procedure. Officials, concerned about the low take up for sterilization procedures have launched a scheme where by male citizens who opt for sterilization are offered a gun licence.

The dubious scheme is already running into problems. The more people persuaded to have the procedure the higher; consequently there have been reports of coercion.

Less than a month ago, a first information report (FIR) was registered against Avtar Singh, a farmer, who allegedly drugged and abducted five of his labourers (one of them a bachelor) and had them forcibly sterilized so he could obtain a revolver licence.

Despite the case being investigated, and the scheme being associated with human rights abuses, magistrates are continuing to offer gun licences as an incentive for sterilization. The district Magistrate was reported as saying:

“Any person who opts for sterilization will be given topmost priority in the granting of a gun licence. We have done this as almost each application that comes to my office is for a gun licence. The family planning programme is lagging behind.”

Other district magistrates in the state claim they have not taken up the scheme:

“We only carry out sterilization programmes with persuasion and education. There is no incentive involved.”

The Indian Express 23/Aug/04