India has a massive and worsening overpopulation problem — the country has added 181 million people in the last 10 years. So health officials in the state of Rajasthan are trying to lure people into voluntary sterilization by taking advantage of one of humankind's biggest weaknesses: expensive sh*t. In a three-month program that they hope will attract 30,000 eager non-breeders, officials are offering cars, motorcycles, televisions, cash, and other incentives for people to put their junk under the knife.
This is not the first time India has instituted payoffs for getting sterilized — before this it was bikes and transistor radios, and before that it was irrigation water and electricity and so forth. For a rapidly overpopulating country in a rapidly overpopulating world, it makes some sense that the government would try extreme measures to encourage people not to breed. But this kind of program inevitaby veers from "public health effort" to "dystopian nightmare."
In a min-maxy kind of way, the car thing makes some sense. Sure, you have more motor vehicles on the road right away (there's actually only one car and five motorcycles on offer right now, donated by a local charitable trust). But you're potentially preventing the carbon emissions of an exponential number of future car drivers. But we have to wonder whether a widespread contraception campaign would be more effective and smack less of creepy eugenics. Perhaps, as long as we're appealing to people's basest instincts, some kind of prophylaxis-based reality show? You could call it The Eggs Factor and give a free Pill prescription to the people who win. Or maybe Jon and Kate Plus Zero.
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