Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday said eradication of social evils was essential for the fruits of development to reach everyone, a reason why his government took steps like prohibition and launched campaigns against dowry and child marriage.
Kumar said this while addressing a public meeting at Balua village in East Champaran district on the second day of his “Vikas Samiksha Yatra”.
He talked about the positives of the decision to clamp prohibition in the state since last year and highlighted the importance of the drive launched by it on Gandhi Jayanti (October 2) this year against social evils such as dowry and child marriage.
“While development has always been a thrust of our government, the fruits of progress cannot reach all the people if the society is beset by evil practices. That is why we announced a complete ban on the sale and purchase of alcohol more than a year ago,” the JD(U) chief said.
Stating that his government had announced prohibition following a demand from the women of the state, he said, “The results have been amazing. Men, who used to squander their earnings on liquor, are now spending their money on their children’s education. We have followed it up with the campaign against dowry and child labour.”
Talking about the ill-effects of child marriage, the chief minister said, “According to a study, 39 out of 100 children in Bihar are stunted. This is said to be directly related to women conceiving at an early age. Many mental illnesses are also said to be caused by pregnancy at a tender age.”
Stating that his government noted that one of the reasons people married their daughters off at an early age was the anxiety to arrange an adequate dowry, he said, hence, it was decided to go for a two-pronged attack on these social evils.
“But please remember that prohibition, dowry and child marriage cannot be eradicated without public awareness. While the government and the law enforcing agencies will do the needful, the common people must also remain vigilant,” Kumar said.
“For example, we have set up a helpline, the numbers of which are displayed on electricity poles, on which complaints regarding the illicit liquor trade can be lodged. But such measures can only succeed when citizens are alert enough to tip-off the law enforcing agencies,” he added.
The JD(U) leader said his government was committed to providing electricity “to every village, and eventually, to every household” in the state.
Recalling Mahatma Gandhi’s stress on hygiene and sanitation, he said, “Our government has taken up construction of toilets and supply of potable water on a war footing. These two things alone will remove 90 per cent of the diseases afflicting our people.
“Mahatma Gandhi was a great believer in decentralisation of power and the development of villages. We have, therefore, involved the panchayats in every project, even if the bulk of the expenditure is borne by the Centre or the state government.”
Motihari, the headquarters of East Champaran district, was the place from where Gandhi had launched his struggle against the British empire by organising the “Champaran Satyagraha” of farmers in 1917.
Kumar did a survey of Parshurampur village in the morning, before reaching Balua in the afternoon.
On his way to Balua, the chief minister’s cavalcade was stopped for a few minutes as the police struggled to control a group of women who wanted to draw Kumar’s attention towards the “lack of development” in their localities.