Report by Badal Tah; Rayagada: On behalf of District Administration, Rayagada, DSWO received a certificate of appreciation from Women & Child Development and Mission Shakti Department at Bhubaneswar for action taken to Combat Child Marriage. On this occasion Smt. Tukuni Sahu, Honourable Minister, Smt. Anu Garg, Principal Secretary, W&CD and Mission Shakti Department, Smt. Sujata Kartikeyan, Secretary Mission Shakti, Sri Aravind Agrawal, Director, ICDS and Social Welfare, UNICEF Odisha Chief, Representatives from UNFPA and Action Aid were present. In yet another meeting at DRDA conference hall, DSWO, Rayagada handed over the Certificate to Collector, Sri Pramoda Kumar Behera in presence of, PD, DRDA, DWO, DEO, DPC-SS and DIPRO.
On 2nd October, a Mass pledge campaign against child marriage throughout the district was undertaken by District Administration by students at their own schools and higher secondary schools and WSHGs to create mass awareness among the community with support from Mission Shakti and Odisha Livelihood Mission, School and Mass Education, Social Welfare, SC and ST Development, Panchayatiraj and Odisha Livelihood Mission. According to official sources 3.50 Lakh people participated in mass pledging at a time. Through human chains and mass pledging it was focused not to organise any marriage ceremony while the girl was below 18 years and boy was below 21 years age. When a marriage is going to happen they should convince the parents not to organise the marriage ceremony and they should inform Childline, Police, Angan Wadi Worker, ICDS Supervisors and CDPOs-cum- Child Marriage Prohibition Officers and District Child Protection Officer.
To address the child marriage issues in district the District Administration, Action Aid and UNICEF jointly focused on different aspects like every child will be in the school with quality learning, health, good nutrition, child protection mechanisms and skill development mechanisms. A District Task force was formed under the Chairmanship of Collector to monitor the district level work plan in consultation with all the line departments.
The chronology goes like this. On 20th August, the District Task Force under the Chairmanship of Collector was constituted. On 2nd October, pledging ceremony involving 3.50 lakhs people of the district took place at different parts of the district. On 24th October, appreciation certificate was given to the district. “As per the NFHS-4 survey data, Rayagada district stands on 1st position in terms of male child marriage and 5th position in case of female child marriage in the State. Child marriage leads to infant mortality, maternal mortality, malnutrition and economic loss. The statistics of 3.5 lakhs people participating in taking pledge is just bloated as nobody as a part of the action plan is able to justify the numbers. It is just one and half month after the action plan and a mere single activity of pledge on October 2nd. And lo ! An appreciation certificate from the state’s top bureaucrats without assessing the impact of indicators set by the work plan itself is nothing but a lobby at higher levels and a nexus to plunder state resources. It is certainly an unfortunate affair”, said Sri Ajay Ratha, Coordinator of Rayagada Nagarika Mancha, a citizen centric forum of Rayagada district.