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To carve out a fresh niche, Nitish kicks off drive against child marriage, dowry

The Bihar chief minister insisted the fight against child marriage and dowry was part of his ‘resolves’ for better governance and ushering in social change, adding, the campaign had nothing to do with politics.

india Updated: Oct 02, 2017 18:53 IST
Anil Kumar
Anil Kumar
Hindustan Times, Patna
CM Nitish Kumar,Anti-dowry campaign,Social reform pledge
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar at a state government function in Patna on Monday. (Santosh/HT photo)

Keen to build on the ‘success’ of prohibition as a vehicle of social change, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, on Monday, kicked off a massive campaign against child marriage and dowry, saying “unless such evils are tackled, the society cannot reap the full benefits of developmental initiatives.”

Launching the drive at Bapu Bhawan of Ashoka Convention Centre, which was inaugurated here on Monday, Kumar said, “Bihar has laid the foundation for social change by implementing prohibition. Now we must pledge to deal with the prevalence of social evils of child marriage and dowry, despite laws against it.”

The Bihar chief minister insisted the fight against child marriage and dowry was part of his ‘resolves’ for better governance and ushering in social change, adding, the social campaign had nothing to do with politics.

But it is widely acknowledged he has been trying to cultivate women as a separate electoral constituency by introducing measures like quota for them in panchayats and in government jobs.

In April 2016, Kumar had implemented complete prohibition in Bihar, a move favoured by a large section of women saddled with alcoholic and abusive husbands, despite ally, RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s reservations about the move.

Now, with the change of partners (dumping of RJD and aligning with BJP, in July), Kumar is clearly keen to add another social spin to his development agenda.

Aware that child marriage and dowry practice are sore points with women at large, Kumar is putting the twin evils high on the agenda of his government so as to create a humane niche for his JD (U) as the ruling party.

“The impact of social change witnessed in Bihar will be felt by other states, which will also start demanding for such initiatives as the one on prohibition,” Kumar said, emphasizing that physical (infrastructure) development should go hand in hand with social change.

Placing his bet on public support, Kumar called on the people to join hands to form a human chain on January 21, 2018- as they had done last year, to express solidarity with the government’s prohibition drive - to send out a clear message on the issue.

“It will isolate those not willing to change,” he said, reminding his audience that “over 4 crore people” had come out onto the roads to decry liquor addiction.

“The incidence of marriage of girls, before attaining 18 years of age, is often the root cause of infant and maternal mortality. Till 2005-06, Bihar accounted for 60% of child marriages. This has now come down to 39%, against the national average of 26.8%, due to improvement in education levels”, Kumar said.

He added, “Child marriage, however, continues to be a cause of serious concern as it contributes to stunted growth in children. This has to change if the society is to reap the real benefit of development initiatives,” he said.

The chief minister administered a pledge to the participants for becoming agents of change by staying away from marriages with dowry and preventing the solemnization of child marriages.

Admitting that findings had indicated that the dowry system also perpetuated the practice of child marriage, Kumar said, “ If this is tackled effectively, Bihar will definitely slide to the bottom of the list of states reporting dowry-related crimes, from its current second position”.

The results would become visible within a year’s time, he said.

First Published: Oct 02, 2017 18:53 IST