Patna: Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday launched a statewide campaign to abolish child marriage and dowry, drawing strength from the campaign he had launched last year to make the state alcohol-free.
He also said a human chain would be formed in support of the campaign on 21 January 2018. “We had implemented prohibition in the state last year and launched a massive campaign in its support by forming a human chain on January 21, 2017... Similarly, I would appeal to all of you to form a human chain on January 21, 2018 in support of the campaign to put an end to the wrong practices of child marriage and dowry," Kumar said.
The JD(U) leader was addressing a function organized by the social welfare department at the Ashok Convention Centre’s Bapu Sabhaghar in Patna, which was inaugurated on Monday. On 21 January this year, Bihar had formed the world’s largest human chain, as per the government’s claim, in support of the liquor ban with Kumar, with leaders from various political parties and citizens holding each other’s hands at the Gandhi Maidan in the state capital. Kumar appealed to all the sections of society to put an end to social evils such as child marriage and dowry and not politicize them.
“Do not view everything from a political angle," he said. The chief minister, who administered an oath to the people not to promote or support such social evils in any manner, also asked them to shun child marriage functions or marriages where dowry had been taken. He expressed hope that the campaign would result in a substantial decline in the number of child marriages and dowry cases “in a year". Kumar said that as per the government crime data, Bihar ranked 26th in terms of crimes against women in the country, but added that the situation was alarming when it came to dowry-related cases.
“Bihar ranks second in the country after neighbouring Uttar Pradesh when it comes to dowry-related cases. In 2016, 987 cases of dowry deaths were registered in Bihar, while the number of cases of dowry-related atrocities was 4,852," he said, adding that the percentage of child marriage cases in the state stood at 39. The chief minister pointed out that this was the situation, despite there being laws —the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006—to eliminate such ill practices.
The liquor ban was the foundation of a social change, the process of which would further be expedited with the abolition of the wrong practices of child marriage and dowry, he said, adding, “Bringing social change is our government’s resolve, like the seven resolves... We want overall development—both physical and social."
Kumar described Bihar as the land of knowledge and the land where great personalities like Buddha, Mahavir, Guru Gobind Singh, Mahatma Gandhi (during his Champaran satyagraha days) worked and transformed the society. “Despite this, we (Bihar) have become a victim of such social evils... If we have to regain our lost glory, then it is necessary to get rid of such practices," he said.
The chief minister also flagged off 38 “Abhiyan Jagrukta" raths for all 38 districts of the state to raise awareness among the masses on the issues. Deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi asked Kumar to introduce a stringent law to deal with the issue of child marriage and suggested enacting a legislation under which the elected representatives of panchayats would be held responsible if a child marriage was reported from their respective jurisdictions.
Bihar legislative assembly speaker Vijay Kumar Choudhary, legislative council vice-chairman Haroon Rashid, social welfare minister Kumari Manju Verma (who presided over the function) and other ministers and top officials were present at the occasion.