NEW DELHI: The Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (the National Population Stabilisation Fund) will focus on involving the civil society in ‘responsible parenthood strategy’, called ‘Prerna’.
Prerna is a monetary incentive strategy aimed at pushing up the age of marriage of girls and delay the birth of the first child in the interest of health of young mothers and infants, particularly among those living below the poverty line, where child marriage and early motherhood is highly prevalent.
The couple become eligible for monetary reward if the girl is married at the age of 19, has her first child after she is 21 years, and the gap between the first and the second child is 36 months. It is also important that the parents undergo sterilisation after the second child.
The first set of awards was given to 34 couples from various districts of Orissa.
“The couple become eligible for monetary reward, ranging between Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 7,000, if they fulfil even two eligibility criteria. There were couples who went home with up to Rs. 19,000 in Orissa,” JSK Executive Director, Shailaja Chandra, told The Hindu.
“We do not wish to project the strategy as a scheme or just money incentive but a movement against marriages at young ages which often leads to early motherhood that directly impacted the health of the mother and the child. We want award-winning couples to become role models for others and spread the message of healthy parenting and reproductive and child health,” she says. Compulsory registration of marriage and birth has also been made a criterion. The incentive has been kept higher (Rs. 7,000) for girl child to check selective abortions. The money is given in the form of Kisan Vikas Patra.
The JSK has identified some districts across the country where the strategy is to be implemented. Initially it decided to place an upper ceiling of 30 cases a district for receiving the award but later the Kosh realised that even finding these many eligible couples was difficult. Now any industrial house can enable the Kosh to widen the scope of the work and support the grant of Prerna Awards in their areas with their own name and local publicity.
The strategy can be implemented by non-governmental organisations or community-level organisations or even through anganwadi workers and accredited social health activists who will also be given some incentives for identifying the eligible couples. Post offices and activists of the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan have been involved in the mission.
Individual commitments to implement Prerna have been made by some district Collectors in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Jharkhand.
In rural areas and some districts in the States with low health indicators, early marriage and pregnancy are common. Between 61 and 65 per cent are married by 18 years and unable to negotiate reproductive rights, young girls give birth to children with poor chances of survival and growth, according to the National Family and Health Survey-III.