By Sujit Chakraborty
A Mizoram minister has announced a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh to the parent who has the highest number of children in his Assembly constituency to encourage population growth among the demographically small Mizo communities.
Mizoram’s Sports, Youth Affairs and Tourism Minister Robert Romawia Royte, who was elected to the 40-member state Assembly from the Aizawl East-2 constituency, did not mention the minimum or maximum number of children a parent must have to get the award.
“It was my announcement on Father’s Day (Sunday). The prize money would be sponsored by the NECS (North East Consultancy Services). Mizoram has a population density of only 52 persons per sq km, whereas the national average is 382 persons per sq km,” the minister told IANS over phone on Monday night.
Royte, 54, is father to three daughters and a son.
The NECS, a private organisation, is the official sponsor of Aizawl Football Club (AFC), a leading football club of the region.
Royte, who is the owner of AFC and is a leading organiser of sporting events in the region, said the person who would be chosen for the award would also get a certificate and a trophy.
With his constant initiatives, sports was accorded industry status in Mizoram last year with an aim to further bolster sporting activities by attracting investment.
Mizoram is the first state in India to declare sports as an industry with an aim to generate employment in the state.
“The infertility rate and the declining growth rate of the Mizo population has been a serious concern for many years. Mizoram is far below the optimum number of people to attain development in various fields because of the gradual decrease in its population.
“Lesser population is a very serious matter and a major impediment for small communities or tribes to survive and progress,” said Royte, who had joined the ruling Mizo National Front before the 2018 Assembly elections.
Royte’s declaration came at a time when several states in India, including neighbouring Assam, are advocating a population control policy.
“India, being diversified in various aspects, should have a diversified and flexible population policy. Glaring differences in population density in different parts of India is a clear proof of the need of such a policy,” Royte said.
The minister, who has also encouraged women to participate in various sporting activities, said that some churches and influential civil society organisations, including the Young Mizo Association (YMA), are advocating a ‘baby boom’ policy to encourage population growth.
The minister’s announcement came a week after the death of Zion-a Chana, who was believed to head one of the largest families in the world with 38 wives, 89 children and 33 grandchildren.
Chana (76), who was the head of a family comprising over 1,000 members, died in Aizawl on June 13 after suffering from diabetes, hypertension and other old age ailments.
With a population of 1.1 million (2011 census), India’s second least populous state Mizoram is home to various Mizo tribes.
The Christian and tribal dominated state, bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh, covers an area of approximately 21,087 sq km.
The Population Foundation of India (PFI), an NGO, has been advocating that India should follow China’s two-child policy that would further empower women and enhance their capabilities to work in a better manner.
In December last year, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had told the Supreme Court in an affidavit that the family welfare programme in the country is voluntary in nature.
The government had earlier said that the period between 2001 and 2011 witnessed the sharpest decline in decadal growth rate among Indians in 100 years.
India was a signatory to the Programme Of Action (POA) of the International Conference on Population and Development, 1994, which was unequivocally against coercion in family planning.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])