Rs 74,638 Per capita income of district
398 Child marriages stopped since Feb 2012
236 Child marriages prevented in the last two years
SRIKAKULAM: At the collectors conference in Vijayawada recently, Srikakulam authorities had some embarrassing moments when Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu read out a survey report assessing the performance of the various districts on several socioeconomic parameters. Srikakulam, the district at the northern tip of Andhra Pradesh, earned the dubious distinction of being number one in the state in child marriages.
With the chief minister's glare trained upon them, the authorities here are on tenterhooks now. The measures undertaken so far to curb child marriages have failed to yield any result, and widespread poverty, poor literacy and rampant migration are to blame, they say.
The records state that the district's child protection unit has thwarted 398 child marriages in Srikakulam since February 2012. In the last two years, some 236 child marriages were prevented in the nick of time. Abject poverty is forcing parents to get their minor children married off and cases of betrothals before the permissible age are on the rise especially in the fishing communities, says district child protection officer K Venkata Ramana.
"Economic insecurities are forcing parents to get their children married. The logic is that the sooner marriage is performed, the earlier they will be relieved of their burden," he said.
Awareness campaign and counselling in the areas of high prevalence
452 village and 10 mandal level child protection panel formed to keep a vigil
100 habitation brought under child-friendly village project to make the village free from child related issues
With a per capita income of Rs 74,638, Srikakulam figures at the bottom of the districts of Andhra Pradesh. One of the mainstays of the coastal district's economy is fishing. And the highest number of child marriages are reported from Gara mandal, followed by Srikakulam rural, Ponduru, Polaki, Amadalavalasa, Etcherla, Laveru, Narasannapeta and Ranasthalam. The majority of the population in these areas are either fishermen or daily wagers who migrate -- leaving behind their children -- to make a living in the agricultural season.
"Migrating couples prefer to perform their children's marriages early because they don't want to leave them behind alone without a male guardian. It takes them at least a year to return, so they just want to be done with the marriage before they leave," said one official.
At least five lakh of the total 28 lakh population of the district migrates in search of jobs.