This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Shooting Blanks

Some time ago in the paper I’d read about a man in Uttar Pradesh state in North India who had sixteen children. Uttar Pradesh is India’s most densely populated state (allegedly, one in every six Indians lives in it) and is also one of the poorest, least developed and with one of the lowest human development indices in the world.

Now this guy with the sixteen children was poor to begin with and of course had no means to feed and clothe, let alone educate, his gigantic brood (why he bred so many is a question only he can answer, but in the villages of India, where there is no such thing as either electricity or any facility for entertainment, all there is to do, after dark, is screw, which might have something to do with it). And when some local hoodlum-turned-politician (a criminal record is almost a prerequisite for a political career across North and West India) came calling, he went to the man and whined about his sad lot and asked what he was to do.

Said the politico, blithely, “Don’t worry; we’ll give you a reward. The nation needs people to have many children.” And after hearing this fandango of rubbish, the stupid man went away content for the moment – only to begin haunting government offices demanding his reward. And the clerks, for a laugh, kept him going from office to office and assuring him that his work would be done. I have no information on whether this character actually ever received anything for his pains, but I’d be inclined to doubt it.

The problem was, of course, that the man hadn’t kept his news to himself; his entire village had got the information that having large numbers of children would fetch one an award, and they were therefore breeding like rabbits. Of course, they had always bred like rabbits; but now they had incentive.


I tell this story just to show the essential irrelevance of population control efforts in India; when politicians are just out for votes at all costs and logic, there is little chance of any real action of any type.

Another thing I remember was the time I tried to get vasectomised. Vasectomy is something the Indian government is allegedly promoting as a permanent solution to the population conundrum. Vasectomy was supposed to be promoted by offering cash incentives to men who wished to be vasectomised. I didn’t want to be given cash; since all of you probably know my view of kids by now anyway, all I wanted was to be vasectomised (this was back when I was still having sex on a fairly regular basis) so that I wouldn’t risk fathering some mass of cells which would have to be scraped out of a possibly unwilling uterus. I was even willing to pay for it. But I was informed thatunless I had two children already and was accompanied by a spouse willing to agree to the process, it was all unethical and the surgeon concerned wouldn’t even dream of doing it. So much for birth control.

And this finally brings me to the point of my story. Very recently I read of a scheme promoted by a bureaucrat a year or two ago in the Chambal area – a river valley shared between the states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh (again!) where those who agreed to get vasectomised would get a gun licence as an incentive. Apparently, some smart bureaucrat (the news item mentioned his name but I’ve forgotten it) noticed that in his bailiwick, despite the cash incentive, just eight men had got vasectomised in all the past year. He reasoned that a gun is basically a great big phallic symbol. Of course it is; the ultimate phallus, shooting death instead of life; and all the rationalisations and arguments for private gun ownership are basically arguments that try and work their way round this central fact.

Therefore, he announced a scheme whereby you could swap the small phallus for the great big one; get yourself sterilised and get a gun of your very own.

He wasn’t mistaken. You must understand that despite the propaganda of gun lobbyists like this one, gun ownership is quite common in India and in absolute numbers (given the huge population of this nation) this must rank as one of the most heavily weaponised countries on earth. I myself know of a street in Kaiserbagh in Lucknow that is lined by gun shops on both sides, and in North India you can literally see people who can’t afford a pair of decent shoes or a cheap bicycle who are the proud owners of shotguns costing well over twenty thousand rupees. In much of North India, in fact, the so-called “dushmandar aadmi” (a “man with enemies”) is the only man of consequence, so gun ownership is a sign of manhood. So this bureaucrat decided that gun licences (which aren't that easily obtained in India) would be popular bait, and he wasn’t wrong.

People lined up to be vasectomised. They were all registered, and promised gun licences…and nothing happened. The police objected to the idea of approving gun licences at random, and who really can blame them? The concerned bureaucrat was transferred to another posting. The new man feigned ignorance of the entire scheme, and claimed he could find nothing of it in the files. And the vasectomy recipients are now, of course, seething at the perfidy of the government, and are now claiming that their relatives tease them because they only have a few kids each and have thrown their “manhood” away.

Can you imagine any of their acquaintances agreeing to any new incentive scheme for sterilisation? I can’t!

You know those popguns with a cork on a string? Somehow, I can’t get the image out of my mind...

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