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WB: NCPCR summons state government for poor response on child marriage

March 17, 2023

Mita Mukherjee

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has sought explanation from the West Bengal government regarding its failure to comply with the commission’s directions to prevent child marriages in the state.

The commission has summoned the principal secretary of the West Bengal women and child welfare development and social welfare department to the NCPCR office in Delhi on April 3. The state government has been asked to submit detailed district-wise reports on the number of child marriages taken place in the state till date and the measures taken by the government to prevent the practice.

Incidents of child marriages had been high in several districts in Bengal for the past few years compared to many other states in the country and according to National Family Health Survey Report V nearly 48 per cent of girls in the state’s rural belts are married off underage. Child marriages have reportedly increased in almost all the districts after the pandemic, sources in the government said.

In a letter to the principal secretary of the state’s women and child welfare development and social welfare department, Priyank Kanoongo, NCPCR chairperson has said that on January 12 this year, the commission wrote to the Bengal government and directed it to carry out certain activities as prescribed in Prohibition of Child marriage Act 2006 and submit district-wise reports to the commission within January 31. After the government failed to submit the reports within the deadline, the Commission decided to hold a virtual review meeting on February 16 where representatives of all the districts were asked to participate. But, only four districts including Alipurduar, Birbhum, Darjeeling and Malda joined the virtual meeting. The meeting was rescheduled on March 15 but attendance was low even on that day. Moreover, excepting a representative from Purulia district, none of the officials representing three more districts could provide the answers to the queries asked during the March 15 meeting, the letter says.

“ NOW THEREFORE, the Commission in pursuance of its functions and powers ….. .. requires your appearance at 15.00 hours on Monday, 3rd April 2023 in Commission — to explain the reasons for not complying with the aforementioned directions of the Commission along with the relevant documents /district wise report of activities (as per NCPCRs format) conducted for prevention of child marriage……..” the letter reads.

A senior official of the women and child development and social welfare admitted that child marriages have gone up in some districts after the pandemic but the government is planning various schemes to empower adolescent girls against child marriages and promote knowledge skills to improve their economic condition.

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