Andhra Pradesh’s Controversial Sterilization Program

The New York Times recently profiled the sterilization program used by the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh which has proven extremely successful, but also controversial.

India’s fifth largest state has seen a dramatic rise in the number of sterilizations. Five years ago, a little over 500,000 people were sterilized. Last year, more than 800,000 were sterilized. More than half the women in Andhra Pradesh have their tubes tied — one of the highest rates in the world. As a result of the massive increase in sterilization, Andhra Pradesh’s population growth has been falling faster than any other large Indian state.

The methods to achieve the high rates of sterilization are, however, controversial. The state sets specific quotas for the number of sterilizations and uses incentives to persuade recalcitrant people to agree to sterilization. People who are sterilized after having their first or second children move the front of the line for loans, housing and other government assistance.

The Times describes, for example, that the Vizianagaram district was short of its quota of 25,000 sterilizations near the end of the year. So it enlisted civic groups to donate clocks, steel, pots and other goods which it then offered as an incentive to encourage people to get sterilized. As a result the district did meet its targets.

Women’s groups and some health experts are highly critical of the policies saying they verge on coercion in such a poor area. One activist told The Times, “I’ve met people who work in villages there who tell me women were offered gold chains to get their tubes tied. if that isn’t coercion, what is?”

The sterilization efforts are also reminiscent of sterilization camps that were set up in the 1970s after Indira Ghandi suspended democracy in India. Many people believe Indian men were forcibly sterilized in such camps.


Relying on hard and soft sells, India pushes sterilization. Celia Dugger, The New York Times, June 22, 2001.

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