Tiny Himalayan Indian state offers cash to women who have more children

Sikkim has about 600,000 people, or roughly 0.05 per cent of India’s mammoth 1.3 billion population,

Gangtok, the capital of the mountainous Indian state of Sikkim, which was an independent kingdom until 1975. Getty Images
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As India struggles to control its ever-increasing population — with leaders calling for a nationwide population control law — one of the country's smallest states has the opposite problem.

Sikkim, bordering Nepal, Bhutan and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, is the state with the fewest people in one of the world's most populous nations.

The tiny Himalayan state is considering giving cash to women who give birth, to boost its indigenous population.

The former kingdom, which became part of India in 1975, is home to indigenous communities of Lepchas, Limbus and Thapas.

It has about 600,000 people, or roughly 0.05 per cent of India’s mammoth 1.3 billion population, the last census in 2011 showed. A large portion of these are adults. There are 227,406 male voters and 223,144 female voters in the state.

Authorities worried about declining birth rates have launched schemes that could help boost the population.

The ideal fertility rate is 2.1, which means two children per woman, but in Sikkim it is 1.1.

“We need to arrest the declining fertility rate by incentivising local people, including women, to produce more children,” Prem Singh Tamang, Chief Minister of Sikkim, said at an event on Sunday.

The government has proposed a special allowance to women who give birth to a second baby and two increments for a third child.

Mr Tamang said his government had been setting up fertility clinics in hospitals across the state, to encourage women to conceive, if facing problems naturally.

A grant of 300,000 rupees ($3,690) would be given to women who opt for the procedure, he said.

The declining fertility rate has worried the state government for some time. In November 2021, its cabinet announced that women in government service would get 365 days of maternity leave, while men would receive 30 days of paternity leave.

The announcement comes after China declared its slowest population growth in 60 years due to shrinking birth rates.

Official figures from China's National Bureau of Statistics released on Tuesday showed mainland China had 850,000 fewer people at the end of 2022, when compared with the previous year.

Updated: January 18, 2023, 3:32 PM