In a bid to encourage large families, the Catholic Church in Kerala will be launching a state-wide campaign that will also offer cash reward to families with more than three children.
The 'Jeevasmridhi 2011' campaign will be launched on Children's Day, Nov. 14, by Archbishop George Alancherry of the Syro-Malabar Church in Kochi.
The move has come close on the heels of a proposal imposing a two-child policy by the Commission headed by Justice V R Krishna Iyer.
The campaign in the next five months aims to offer rewards to at least 5,000 families who have more than three children.
Jose Kottayil, secretary of the Family Commission, told media that the church has formed two categories to felicitate couples.
One of the categories is for couples who had been married for four decades and who had five children. The other is for those who married after 1990 and have four children.
Promoted by the Family Commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC), the campaign is being launched under the slogan "Big Family, Happy Family”.
Stating that nuclear families were not happy families, Bishop Mathew Anikkuzhikkattil, chairman of the Family Commission said children should be treated as an asset to the family and society. Couples should not be ashamed of having more than one child, he said.
Census statistics show that the number of Christians in Kerala has been in steady decline. BBC reported that unofficial estimates say they could slip below 18% of Kerala's population in the latest census.
Although many pro-life initiatives were launched in the past by the Catholic Church, it was the recent recommendations of Justice Iyer Commission that forced the Church to intensify its campaign.
In fact, the Wayanad Diocese of the Church had started to give cash incentives to fifth child of any Christian family in August.
The V R Krishna Iyer Commission for the Rights and Welfare of Children and Women set up by Kerala government had recently in its report suggested restriction of entitlement to state grants to only those who adopt the two-child norm.
One of the proposals in the draft of the Kerala Women’s Code Bill calls for punishing the family that has more than two children by a fine of Rs 10,000 or three months in jail. Another possible clause would bar religious and political organisations from discouraging family planning.
The Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Council (KCBC) has called the draft “anti-democratic and an infringement on the parental rights of the people.”
Meanwhile, the Kerala law minister, KM Mani, this week rejected the recommendation of the Justice Iyer Commission and said the proposals could not be accepted in a democratic country like India.
Ours is not a dictatorial system. We cannot impose small family norm by means of legislation, he said while speaking at a function organised by Kerala Congress (M) party.