A Baptist church in the Indian state of Mizoram is offering cash incentives for couples who have four or more babies in an attempt to reverse the falling birth rate in the predominantly Christian state.
According to Indian Express, The Lunglei Bazar Veng Baptist Church has announced that couples who decide to have their fourth child would get Rs4,000 (US$62.80), while those who have their fifth will get Rs5,000 (US$78.60).
The church official who made the announcement said that the church has decided not to fix an upper limit on the incentives, suggesting that the more babies are born, the more cash reward will be given away.
Additionally, the church is also offering a cash prize of Rs5,000 (US$78.60) for newly-wed couples.
The falling birth rate among the dominant Mizo tribe has been a cause for worry for Mizo organizations and churches.
The 2011 Census has indicated that the population density of Mizoram is 52 people per square kilometer, which is said to be the second lowest in India, after the state of Arunachal Pradesh.
The aggregate population growth in Mizoram in the current decade has been 23.48 percent, falling from 29.18 percent in the previous decade, according to the state's statistical handbook.
Various critics of the church's move have claimed that Mizoram is already congested and does not need a baby boom. Some have noted that while the population density of the state is low according to Indian standards, it is quite normal when compared to other countries.
Christians make up 87 percent of Mizoram's population, with most belonging to the Presbyterian Church. The Baptist and the Presbyterian Churches, the two largest denominations in the state, have repeatedly been urging its members to have more babies.
"We encourage more children," Lalramleina Pachuau, senior executive member of the Mizoram Synod of Presbyterian Church of India.
When asked if there is a ceiling for the number of children in the family, Pachau responded: "No, we have not fixed any such number. The population of Mizos is dwindling, and we encourage couples to have more children."
Pachau noted that the Presbyterian Church has decided not to offer any cash incentives. He expressed concern about the rising number of stillbirth in some areas, particularly in Mizoram's south. "We do not know the exact reasons but the health department is investigating," he said.
The fourth National Family Health Survey conducted between January 2015 and December 2016 has found that the infant mortality rate in the state has increased from 34 percent in 2006 to 40 in 2016.