ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Child Marriages and State

of HYV plots in the set of conducted experiments would be disproportionately large. Thus such an estimate of HYV coverage would remain a suspect. In case of boro (or summer) paddy or wheat, substitution would, however, make no difference in estimation of HYV coverage because the local varieties are no longer cultivated in the respective season. We feel that a researcher should examine the quality of the basic crop data of West Bengal in the 1980s and subsequent times before undertaking any serious study based on them, as did the renowned James K Boyce for an extensive earlier period. The point would be amply borne out by the following extract of a news item appearing in The Statesman, Calcutta (August 28, 1992) entitled. 'Basu sore at claim on rice production' written by its special IT is very unfortunate that NGO leaders like Shankar Singh et al (EPW, June 4) defend child marriages in Rajasthan, when they assert, "The internal logic of child marriage is fairly sound. Child weddings take place primarily amongst OBCs and dalits and therefore most often poorer families." Accorttingto them "the 'muklava' or 'gohna' is delayed and the married girl does not go to the in-laws' place till the age of 18 which is the legal age of consent. There is sufficient internal pressure within rural communities to support any effort to delay the ceremony of mukhlava.'' Will Singh and his friends provide family- level evidence regarding the delay in mukhlava among the married adolescent girls in Rajasthan? If one does a survey, girl- by-girl and ascertain when they got married and when they were sent to in-laws' house for mukhlava we would really come to know the time gap between marriage and mukhlava. In the absence of such evidence it is all a social hunch not supported by facts. In fact the pressures are different. The in-laws of the girls do not want the girls to go to school because she is 'married'. In one of my field visits in a village of Gwalior district of MP, I asked the mother of the girl who was married at 13, why the girl was not going to school, the mother replied that the in-laws and particularly the husband of the girl (age 20) does not want his 'girl-wife' to go to school lest she becomes more literate than him. Girls when 'sold' in marriage get a price (called natra in these districts of MP). Hence there are economic pressures for marrying girls early. These parents put forward the excuse of not getting bridegrooms later when girls grow. But the representative. "Mr Jyoti Basu lost his temper at a high-level meeting held in his office at Writers' Buildings on Thursday to review the food situation especially the crumbling rationing system. The provocation was a recent statement by the agriculture minister', Nihar Bose, who claimed that West Bengal had become a major rice surplus state by producing a record 12 million tons in 1991- 92... What irked the chief minister was that Mr Bose's assertion had already been disputed by the union food secretary Mr T Khanna, who, at a recent meeting on rationing in New Delhi, had said that West Bengal's claims, both in the field of land reforms and doubling of food production were 'highly suspect'... Already the centre has told West Bengal that if the state really had surplus rice, why was it ask (ing) for one million tons of highly subsidised rice from the centre every year?" hidden agenda is to get the price for the girl! The Child Marriage Restraint Act is a non- performing act and the state alone cannot enforce the minimum age of marriage unless the NGOs, the parents of both the girl and the boy and the caste leaders join hands in this campaign against child marriage. The incident in Rajasthan where Banwari was gang raped because she campaigned against child marriage, is unfortunate, but that incident instead of slowing down the campaign should intensify it, and NGOs instead of defending child marriage should vehemently intensify their fight against early marriage of girls.

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