In Didi's signature scheme: Study, shun girl child marriage to get dole


In a move that may go a long way in preventing child marriage, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Tuesday launched her signature Kanyasharee scheme, which promises a cash dole to girls from poor families, but with two conditions attached — they should pursue education and must not be married off till the age of 18 years. The scheme assures an annual scholarship of Rs 500 to the girls and a one-time payment of Rs 25,000 to her family. The scheme will be available to families whose annual income is less than Rs 1.2 lakh, but this condition will be waived off for the disabled students and inmates of the Juvenile Justice home. "Say no to child marriage and pursue your career. Raja Rammohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar had fought child marriage, but girls are still getting married at the ages of 12, 13 and 14. We are trying to stop this. I want you to realize that self-reliance is a much stronger social security than marriage," Mamata said while launching the scheme at the Netaji Indoor stadium. The chief minister inaugurated the scheme by transferring the scholarship money into the bank accounts of 10,000 beneficiaries. The scholarship will be paid from Class VIII to XII for girl students as Class VIII is the level at which many girl students usually drop out and are married off, officials said, adding about 18 lakh students will benefit from this direct bank transfer scheme. Another 3.5 lakh families will get the benefit of the other component —- one time grant of Rs 25,000 to girl students who continue with their studies and are not married off till the age of 18. Mamata said monitoring committees have been set up for smooth implementation of the scheme and urged the officials to adopt a positive attitude in reaching the benefits to the needy. "Negativism is a crime. Non-performance too is a crime," she told the officials. Stating that the scheme would cost the exchequer Rs 1,000 crore annually, Mamata said, "I told (Finance minister) Amit Mitra we have to raise the money from somewhere. The budget is there. I don't know from where but we have to do it," Mamata said. An official said that the aim of the scheme is to reduce foeticide and encourage girls to study, so that their early marriage can be checked. West Bengal is among the states which report high incidents of child marriage. Government statistics show that in Bengal the dropout rate for girl students in Classes I-X was 63.5 per cent compared to the all India average of 47.9 per cent. This high dropout rate is believed to have a led to high prevalence of child marriages —- 54.7 per cent.