A bandit-infested region of India is trying to persuade men to undergo sterilisation by offering to fast-track their gun licence applications, an official said on Tuesday.
Officials in central Madhya Pradesh state's Shivpuri district decided to adopt the policy -- already tried out by some neighbouring states -- to increase the low vascectomy rate.
"I came to know that it had to do with their perceived notion of manliness," said Manish Shrivastav, administrative chief of Shivpuri district, part of the Indian Chambal region, which is famed for its lawlessness and bandits.
"I then decided to match it with a bigger symbol of manliness -- a gun licence," he said. "And the ploy worked."
The plan comes as India, which has a population of 1.1 billion people, is trying to encourage people to have smaller families to ease poverty.
Vasectomy rates have soared since the policy was introduced last month, he added, although those undergoing sterilisation are still required to meet all regulations governing arms licences.
"Over 150 men have got themselves sterilised since we have offered the gun licence preference. I expect another 100 by the end of this month," Shrivastav told AFP.
Only eight men underwent the snipping procedure last year, in spite of financial rewards of 1,100 rupees (27.5 dollars).
The district of 1.4 million people has just 11,000 licensed arms, but locals say they want guns because bandits have large numbers of unlicensed weapons.
"I never bothered to apply for a licence before because I knew it was not so easy to get," said Shivpuri resident K.K. Saxena, 55, who recently underwent the procedure. "But when I heard about this then I decided to apply."
Saxena was provided with a medical slip confirming his sterilisation to attach to his gun application.
About 10,000 to 15,000 people apply each year for gun licences in Shivpuri, but only about 500 permits are granted annually.
One official, however, lambasted the idea.
"Where there are guns, even minor feuds often escalate into events that claim lives," said a police official who did not want to be named.
"The government should consider other incentives. It's ridiculous and irresponsible on the part of the authorities."