“In recent years, the birth rate in the Christian community has decreased to 14%,” read the letter, issued by the Archbishop Mar Joseph Perumthottam.
Even as the controversy over the measures to curb population growth in Uttar Pradesh continues to rage, a Catholic church diocese in Central Kerala has come up with a welfare scheme for families having five or more children.
The initiative, launched by the Family Apostolate of the Pala diocese under the Syro-Malabar church, seeks to offer a monthly financial assistance of Rs.1500 to the couples who are married after the year 2000 and have five or more children. Women who are delivering their fourth children onward are entitled for free delivery care at a hospital run by the church while the children who are born as the fourth or subsequently in a family will be given scholarships at an engineering college run by the church.
The scheme, announced as part of the year of the family celebrations by the Syro Malabar church, is now going viral in the social media and has evoked mixed reactions from the public.
Confirming its authenticity, Fr. Joseph Kuttiankal, Director of the Family Apostolate, said the scheme was planned as an assistance to the large families, especially in the post COVID-19 scenario. “This is being planned as a minimal assistance to the families who might be finding it hard to make both their ends meet. The actual number of families who are eligible for the benefits under the scheme are yet to be ascertained.’’, he said.
As to why it has set the year 2000 as a lower ceiling, Fr. Kuttiankal said such young families would be the most vulnerable as they mostly had only one earning member in the family. “The elder children of couples who started a family before that year must have completed their education and begun contributing to their respective families’’, he pointed out.
The announcement of the scheme, meanwhile, has evoked some sharp reactions from the public with a section of them terming it as a deliberate attempt to raise the community’s strength. The church authorities, however, have sought to dismiss those allegations and held that they did not want to respond to such irresponsible remarks.
An earlier attempt by the Kerala government to bring out the Kerala Women’s Code Bill 2011, which sought to penalise families violating the two-child norm, had created a furore in the state with various religious organisations including the Catholic church raising a protest.
Later in 2019, a pastoral letter issued by the Changanacherry Archdiocese suggested that the share of the Christian population in Kerala has dwindled over the years, creating an ‘alarming situation’ for the community in the state.
“During the formation of Kerala, Christians were the second-largest community in the state. But now, the community is only 18.38% of the state’s total population. In recent years, the birth rate in the Christian community has decreased to 14%,” read the letter, issued by the Archbishop Mar Joseph Perumthottam.
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