Bihar government is arranging facilities to provide higher secondary education to all girls as “educating girls is the best way to stabilise population”, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Saturday said.
“We have found that educating girls is the best way to stabilise population. Data reveals that average fertility rate of the girls educated till class 10 in the country is 2 and in Bihar also it was the same. The fertility rate drops to 1.7 in the country if the girl is educated till class 12 but in Bihar it is 1.6 which is better than the national average,” Kumar said.
“While seeing the data related to fertility rate of educated girls, we have decided to open ‘plus two’ (higher secondary) schools in all village panchayats and we are working on a five year target to complete it. If all girls in Bihar study till class 12, the fertility rate will go down,” he added.
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The chief minister was speaking at a workshop on ‘Health, Women and Development’ organised in the state capital by Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI) and Population Foundation of India (PFI).
Kumar pointed out that the fertility rate of Bihar is 3.9 in comparison to 2.4 at all-India level. The population is increasing by 25 per cent every 10 years. It must be stabilised as the area of land would not increase.
“I emphasise on education of girls because it will not only help stabilise population but will also help check child marriage, female foeticide, and improve sex ratio,” he added.
The chief minister termed adverse sex ratio as a “big problem” and said if it continued then men would not be able to get married just like the situation that has arisen in Haryana and many problems would erupt in the society.
“It will lead to violence, atrocities on women, moral corruption and many other things. There is a dire need to correct adverse sex ratio. The society will be destroyed if we do not pay attention to it,” he added.
Kumar said that things would not become ideal only by making laws. There was a need to change the thinking of the society and it could happen only through education.
He said his government has formed ‘Women Empowerment Policy’ after initiating many development schemes to provide free school dress, bicycle and sanitary napkins to girl students.
“Women Empowerment Policy will help institutionalise the schemes so that they continue even if people at the helm of affairs change. If it fails to work then we’ll think about making laws related to it,” the CM added.
He came down heavily on the practice of defecating in the open and said it needed to be stopped as it not only spreads diseases but also leads to atrocities on women.
Kumar said he had been asking people at his public meetings since 2007-8 to pledge to construct toilets at their homes and stop the practice of going to toilet in the open.
“Bihar was the first state to devise its own scheme for constructing toilets. It is named after socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia who was a big advocate of toilets and cleaning of rivers. Now other people are speaking about them,” he said.
The chief minister pointed out that the state was aiming at forming 10 lakh women Self Help Groups (SHG) and around 3 lakh had been formed so far under Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project (BRLP) ‘Jeevika’.
The 10 lakh SHGs are expected to associate 1.1 crore women with them. Apart from creating livelihood opportunities, they will help check female foeticide and other such things, he said.
Kumar also enumerated welfare schemes for women started during his tenure in the state. These include 50 per cent reservation in local government bodies, 50 per cent in jobs of primary teachers, and 35 per cent in police constabulary and Sub-Inspectors.