Assam Budget: Rs 200 cr allocated for ‘mission’ to end child marriages by 2026

Guwahati, March 16: A mission to curb child marriages in Assam and wipe out the menace by the end of 2026 was announced by state finance minister Ajanta Neog while presenting the Assam Budget 2023-24 in the state Assembly on Thursday.

“Curbing child marriages in the state has not only become a necessity but an urgency. Our government has launched a mass drive against the violators of ‘Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) 2006’ earlier this year. To sustain the efforts, our government is committed to launch the ‘Mission for Prevention of Child Marriage’ with a target of making Assam free of incidents of child marriage by the end of year 2026,” Neog said.

The mission is being set up in the women and child development department with an allocation of Rs 200 crore.

“High maternal and infant mortality rates are major health care issues in this part of the country. We have sincerely addressed these concerns and could reduce our maternal mortality from 237 in the year 2014-16 to 195 in the year 2018-20 and the infant mortality rate from 49 in the year 2014 to 36 in the year 2020. Child marriage has been one of the prominent reasons for our high IMR (infant mortality rate) and MMR (maternal mortality rate),” the finance minister said.

Notably, all gram panchayat secretaries in Assam have been designated as ‘child marriage prevention officers’.

“They will ensure prohibition of child marriages, the protection of the victims as well as prosecution of the offenders by lodging FIRs. Our district police forces will continue to conduct intensive drives every six months to take necessary action against offenders,” she said.

The mission will work in a time-bound manner and link all programmes and services for women and children, and for effective implementation of special legislations such as Prevention of Child Marriage Act 2006, POCSO Act 2012, Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act, 2015 and Right to Education Act, 2009 in collaboration with relevant line departments and stakeholders such as NGOs and Samaritan volunteers.

“This mission will specifically focus on surveillance, strengthening institutions, introduction of helpline, and rehabilitation of victims. There will be a call centre to monitor the complaints. Being a woman and a mother, I call everyone to act sternly against this injustice meted out to our daughters,” the minister said.

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