Odisha’s Ganjam district declared as free of child marriage
Odisha’s Ganjam district, the home turf of chief minister Naveen Patnaik, has been declared as child-marriage free district.
The district administration has also increased the reward for informer by ten times from Rs 5,000 to Rs 50,000 to encourage people to come forward to inform the administration about any child marriage attempt in their respective areas.
Ganjam district collector Vijay Amruta Kulange told The Telegraph: “Earlier, the district was known for child marriage. We decided to take a call on this issue and launched an awareness programme to make people aware about the repercussions of child marriage. And we have been successful. Not a single such marriage took place in 2021. Before any such development took place, we intervened and stopped.”
An official order issued by the district collector said, “After duly verified by the respective block development officers, tahasildars, executive officers, NAC (Notified Area Council) and child marriage prohibition officers which have been recommended by the GP/ward/village level task force committees, the administration hereby declared Ganjam district as child marriage free district (3309 number of Child marriage free villages, 280 number of child marriage free ward under ULB and 503 number of child Marriage free gram panchayat).”
The district collector said: “The child marriage impedes the growth of a woman. The mother is the best tutor for a child. A child knows the basics from the mother. It can only be possible if a girl gets married at a proper age. Seeing the rising number of child marriage case, we have decided to take steps to stop the practice through Nirbhay Kadi (Fearless bud) in 2019. Now it has yielded the desired result after three years.”
In 2019, the district administration stopped 45 child marriages. In 2020 and 2021, it had been able to foiled 429 child marriage attempts (228 in 2020 and 201 in 2021) respectively. “As a first step towards implementing the scheme, the district administration alerted all the school authorities to inform about dropping of any adolescent girls from school for five days in a row. Once we got to know about it we started counselling through teachers and ground level workers,” said the official.
The district administration has so far counselled nearly one lakh teenagers on the need for preventing child marriage. “The incentives for the informer has been increased with an objective that more and more information flow to the district administration about occurrence of such incident so that at the right time we would be able to intervene and stop the heinous practice,” said the district collector, adding that nearly 14,222 meetings were held across the district to make people aware about the need to prevent the child marriage.
Haling the Ganjam administration’s effort in curbing the child marriage, Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (OSCPCR) Sandhyabati Pradhan said: “Ganjam district administration has shown the commitment to get rid of such evil practice.”
“We do have the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, which prescribes punishment of two years rigorous imprisonment and fine for solemnising a child marriage. But the evil practice can be eradicated through awareness, participation of social workers in the movement and enforcement of law,” said Director, Childline, Dr Benudhar Senapati.