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

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Kanyashree Prakalpa

State Intervention to Prevent Child Marriage

The conditional cash transfer scheme of the Government of West Bengal, Kanyashree Prakalpa, has been hailed as a much-needed intervention to combat the high rate of child marriage in the state, and has received numerous awards since its inception. The scheme incentivises girls to continue education, while simultaneously delaying early marriages. However, an examination of the working of the scheme highlights the fact that rather than promoting higher education of women, the scheme has ended up entangled in the marriage economy of rural Bengal.

This article is based on a study conducted by the School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University for the project “Love, Law and Labour: Child Marriage in West Bengal,” funded by American Jewish World Service and supervised by Samita Sen.

The author would like to thank Anindita Ghosh, Utsarjana Mutsuddi, Biswajit Prasad Hazam, Kaushik Mukherjee, Seema Chatterjee and Saurabh Paul for their valuable contributions.

On 24 June 2017, the Government of West Bengal was declared the winner of the United Nations Public Service Award at The Hague for its flagship scheme known as Kanyashree Prakalpa, which provides educational support to unmarried girls through conditional cash transfers. India stood first in the Asia–Pacific group for the category “Reaching the Poorest and Most Vulnerable through Inclusive Services and Participation,” with the Government of West Bengal being the receiving institution. The scheme was introduced by Mamata Banerjee in 2013, and her government celebrated the award with much fanfare. In the four years since its inception, the scheme has gained national and international recognition, and has received six different awards, including the National Awards for e-Governance 2014–15 by the Narendra Modi government’s Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances.1

Currently, over 40 lakh girls are beneficiaries of the scheme, which attempts to combat the increasing rate of child marriages in West Bengal. The state ranked high in terms of underage marriages of girls according to the District Level Household and Facility Survey–3 (DLHS–3), conducted during 2007–08, and the National Family Health Survey (NFHS–3), conducted during 2005–06. This prompted the Government of West Bengal to intervene in the education sector. Considering the relationship between child marriages and the dropout rate of girls, the objective of the scheme was to both tackle the rate of girl dropouts from school, as well as delay the marriages of girls. According to the state government website, the aim is to ensure that girls remain in school, so that they gain requisite skills and knowledge, which will allow
them to become economically independent. It states,

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Updated On : 24th Jan, 2018
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