After prohibition, Bihar aims for dowry-free villages
Political analysts believe that after successfully imposing prohibition on liquor in Bihar, chief minister Nitish Kumar is now raising the bar in an attempt to emerge as a social reformer.Updated: Jul 16, 2017 13:03 IST
PATNA After enforcing prohibition, Bihar is now planning to rope in panchayat representatives and religious leaders in its campaign against dowry and child marriage.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar, who successfully championed the prohibition drive after returning to power in 2015, had announced last month that he would launch a campaign against child marriage and dowry on October 2 - Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday.
In pursuance of his commitment, he has tasked the Women’s Development Corporation (WDC) to prepare a strategy for ushering in a social change.
The WDC, on its part, plans to have ‘dowry free villages’ to begin with. It has, however, not identified the villages or districts to be taken up under the first phase of the campaign.
Managing director N Vijayalakshmi told Hindustan Times, “We will first train representatives of the panchayati raj institutions (PRI) through workshops and motivate them to take up the social cause. Identifying the villages will take time.”
The PRI representatives like mukhiyas will be expected to interact with local villagers, sensitise and motivate them to shun the age old social malaise.
“There is need to change people’s mindset. Child marriage here seems to be closely linked with dowry. The common perception in Bihar villages is that one has to shell out huge money as dowry for marriage of highly educated girls. The general belief then is to marry girls early,” Vijayalakshmi added.
Cases of child marriage in Bihar have declined only marginally. The Census 2011 reported 31% cases of child marriage among Hindus as against 34% in 2001.
Going by the data of the National Crime Record Bureau, dowry deaths in Bihar have been on the rise. Against 1,275 dowry deaths reported in 2012, the number had gone up to 1,373 in 2014.
Political commentators are keenly watching chief minister Kumar. By imposing prohibition on liquor, they say Kumar has already won the hearts of women. Notably, he has also taken the lead over other states and the Centre in revoking Gandhian philosophy as part of centenary celebrations of the Champaran satyagraha.
Now, by espousing the cause of girls and young women, by timing to launch the campaign against dowry and child marriage on Gandhi Jayanti this year, he is only raising the bar in an attempt to emerge as a social reformer.
With differences between coalition partners Kumar’s JD(U) and Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal apparent — the most recent being over the presidential candidate — political analysts believe Kumar is preparing ground so that he does not need Prasad’s crutches even if he decides to sever ties with the RJD any time before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
SOCIAL REFORM Women’s Development Corporation has been assigned to prepare a strategy for ushering in change through campaign against child marriage and dowry
There is need to change people’s mindset. Child marriage seems to be closely linked with dowry. Common perception in villages is one has to shell out huge money as dowry and also to marry girls early
N Vijayalakshmi, MD, WDC