The Reverend Thomas Malthus would have been shaking his head ruefully if he had heard the latest exhortation coming from the Syro-Malabar church in northern Kerala. The Indian clerics have stated that they want parents to "shrug off the shame" of having many kids. In contradiction to what the 18th-19th century Anglican priest-cum-political economist from Surrey had theorised in An Essay on the Principle of Population, the Kerala churchmen have promised couples (owing allegiance to the Syro-Malabar church, we would presume) a one-time Rs 10,000 'bonus' on producing a fifth child. As a spokesman of the 'pro-life' committee of the church has said, such an emolument is to encourage and recognise parents who produce a litter of at least five future believers.
Questions from us questioners remain. Why is the Syro-Malabar church looking to encourage parents to produce a fifth kid and not, say, a fourth or a seventh? With a couple producing their tenth offspring, will a second amount of Rs 10,000 land in their fixed deposit? What happens if the fifth child, on growing up, forfeits his or her faith and starts using - god forbid! - contraception? Will the money be demanded back with interest, considering that the fifth child's education will be 'taken care of' by the church?
Malthus had written that "the increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence...." and that increased resources aren't always able to keep up with increasing populations. War and pestilence have traditionally kept the resources-population balance intact. But measures such as celibacy and delaying marriage are more palatable for the church. Our Kerala clergymen prefer to keep the balance by injecting resources while upping the procreation tempo. The fact that the expanding fold of the Syro-Malabar church will be part of a 1.2 billion super-parish called India, which prefers the simpler solution of cutting back on procreation, may not have hit our post-Malthusians yet. And how the good folk will deal with the Kerala government's two-child norm, only those in an expansive mood should try and explain.