Allahabad (AsiaNews) Public school teachers are now required to promote sterilisation among students and their families. Such a policy has come into place in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh after a district judge issued an order forcing teachers, public servants and village leaders to fulfill a "sterilisation" quota by March 31 on pains of dismissal, suspension or transfer.
Mgr Stanislaus Fernandes, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), told AsiaNews that the Catholic Church "strongly condemns this sterilisation plan which is contrary to God's laws and morality, and [which] must be stopped without delay for the good of the nation." The order issued by Judge Amrit Abhijat is "unacceptable and contrary to divine laws".
Teachers are equally shocked by the new "task" imposed on them. "We are treated like bonded labourers," said Ravi Prasad Chaurasia, a primary school teacher in the district. "The government always engages us in any job it fancies. Are we supposed to teach students or ask them to bring their parents to medical camps for sterilisation? It is shameful but who is going to listen to us?"
Under the court order, Class III employees in the Medical and Health Department are required to bring ten people for sterilisation. Targets for village leaders have not been announced but some of them have already started to recruit victims.
"The Medical and Health Department failed to persuade even a single woman but I alone led at least 90 women to the local centre for sterilisation," proudly announced Ramashanker Pandey, head of Pathartaal village. "But all of them could not be operated because of a lack of doctors".
Speaking to the local press, Judge Abhijat said that it was necessary to make family planning a success. He admitted that for him family planning came above everything else because the root cause of all evils is population explosion; to quote him: "We have to take up this challenge on a priority basis."
"Judge Abhijat's order cannot but shock every Indian," Fr Babu Joseph, spokesman and director of the CBCI's Media and Communications Department, told AsiaNews. "It is shocking first of all because it involves people who educate the young, and secondly because family planning falls within the jurisdiction of the Health department and not the courts."
"The Church cannot accept a barbarous practice like sterilization. It promotes instead natural methods of family planning which is the only path for a responsible population policy. Above all the Church wants to protect human dignity and honour. Human being should be allowed to make their own decisions in every field that pertains to them, including the family."
"This sentence is the by-product of the madness that comes when people want to turn social goals in targets to meet," said John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union. "I recall that when similar measures where taken back in 1975 at the time of the state of emergency, the outcome was a total disaster not only in terms of family planning but also for the nation itself."
"In any democracy, family planning ought to be voluntary. Any limits are necessarily self-imposed. Population growth is a function of education, economic prosperity and social responsibility, not the other way around. In the hands of a dictatorship, family planning becomes a tool that threatens human and civil rights, above all the rights of the poor."