President Pratibha Patil wants to meet Rekha Kalindi, the 12-year-old bidi-roller who dared to say no to child marriage, and has invited her to visit Rashtrapati Bhawan.
“The President read the story in Hindustan Times and was very impressed with Rekha’s courage. She wants to invite the little girl to Rashtrapati Bhawan and meet her. We have written to the secretary to the Governor of West Bengal asking for details so that the visit can be arranged,” said Archana Datta, Officer on Special Duty (PR), President Of India.
A visit to the 340-room Rashtrapati Bhawan will be a dream come true for Rekha, who lives in a one-room home with no electricity, no running water and no toilet in Jhalda-II block in the Purulia district of West Bengal.
On Sunday, HT had reported how the little girl from a village with the lowest female literacy in the country had done what the government has been trying for years — stopped child marriage.
Unlike her elder sister Jyotsna, Rekha — one of the six siblings in a family of bidi-rollers — said no to marriage and forced her family to agree. “Rekha belongs to the Kalindi tribe, a scheduled tribe in which traditionally girls get are married at the age of 12. Since her revolt, there has been no child marriage in the Jhalda-II block, which has among the lowest female literacy in India,” said Prosenjit Kundu, assistant labour commissioner, Purulia, West Bengal government.
“I want to study. I know the English alphabet and can write numbers till 100. I want to study English and get a job,” she told HT proudly. She started studying in 2006, when her village got a school under the National Child Labour Project.