A local church in Christian predominant state of Mizoram has announced cash incentives for couples who have four or more babies. The Lunglei Bazar Veng Baptist Church has recently announced Rs 4,000 for the fourth baby, Rs 5000 for the fifth and so on.
Secretary of the Bazar Veng Baptist Church, which has announced the cash incentives, also confirmed that his church has decided not to fix any upper ceiling. Going by the church’s policy, the more babies are born, the more cash reward will be doled out.
The low birth rate among the dominant Mizo tribe has become a matter of concern not only for the Mizo organizations but also for the churches. “We encourage more children,” Lalramleina Pachuau, senior executive member of the Mizoram Synod of Presbyterian Church of India, said when contacted over phone. He clarified though that the Presbyterian Church has decided not to announce any cash incentives. Pachuau says that while the population of Mizos is already less, the birth rate is further decreasing.
According to the 2011 Census, the population density of Mizoram is 52 persons per square kilometre, the second lowest in the country, after Arunachal Pradesh. According to Mizoram’s statistical handbook, the aggregate population growth in the current decade has been 23.48 per cent while in the earlier decade it was 29.18 per cent.
Churches of various denominations in Mizoram, including the Catholic Church, agree to this policy, though some may not say it out loud, said Pachuau. He informed that the rate of stillbirth has been on the rise in certain areas, especially Mizoram’s south. “We do not know the exact reasons but the health department is investigating,” he said.
Is there any ceiling for the number of children in a family? Pachuau says, “No, we have not fixed any such number. The population of Mizos is dwindling, and we encourage couples to have more children.”
The fourth National Family Health Survey conducted between January 2015 and December 2016 revealed that the infant mortality rate in Mizoram went up from 34 in 2006 to 40 in 2016, an increase of almost 18 per cent.
Church plays a significant and powerful role in all aspects of Mizo life. The majority (87 per cent) of Mizos are Christians in various denominations, predominantly Presbyterian. The all-powerful Presbyterian Church and the Baptist Church of Mizoram have repeatedly appealed to its members to have more babies.
According to sources, the birthrate in the state’s urban areas where the dominant Mizo tribe settles is relatively low compared to the rural areas where ethnic minorities like Chakmas and Brus reside.
Zoramthanga, former chief minister of Mizoram, during his tenure, had extended maternity benefits for the birth of up to four children against only two in other states. He too voiced concern about the small size of the state’s population, particularly that of Mizos.