Report submitted by Prof. Ramdas Rupavath, Department of Political Science to Smt .Satyavathi Rathod, Honourable Minister Scheduled Tribes & Child and Women Welfare, Telangana State. This is a major research project Sponsored by ICSSR, Government of India

Prof. Ramdas Rupavath, Department of Political Science submitted a project report on the Educational Status of Women and Girl Child of Scheduled Tribe in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh: An Experience of Beti Bachao and Beti Padhao, to Smt .Satyavathi Rathod, Honourable Minister Scheduled Tribes & Child and Women Welfare, Telangana State

This study was assigned by Indian Council of Social Science Research, carried out by Centre for Human Rights, Department of Political science and supported by ICSSR, Government of India. The situation of Girl child in the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Hence, readers who wish to use the findings for research purpose, are suggested to take for policy Implementation.

The report summary briefs about the critical findings on purveyances of child situation, lawful requirements and guidelines, and consequences and ambitions of Lambadi girl child. It accomplishes with policy suggestions.

Section two briefly explains the most important drivers of child socio economic conditions.

Section three highlights the prevalence of child selling’s. It briefs about the status of girl child in the various age groups and marriages and dowry problems.

Section four summarizes the provisions for institutional and legal support systems to prevent child marriages. Section five briefs the consequences of child selling from the field level Indications. Besides, it describes the ambitions and the demands of child brides.

Findings and Suggestions

Indian society based on Traditions, cultural Norms and blind Opinions, Poverty, hunger, Unemployment, lack of primary and secondary education, supply and demand factors playing a dominant role in the tribal society .The acculturalization pressure are the critical forces to encouraging child marriages and dowry from centuries. These are very deep rooted causes in the society.

In any society, the status of women is dynamic with certain variables. The analysis of status is based on social change especially the transition from tradition to modernity. In the process of study, earlier chapters have endeavoured to present a picture about the status of Lambada women and girl child in the community, their socio economic conditions, and the transition of community towards the birth of girl children. After the study investigation in Devarakonda mandal, it is clear that girl children were being procured and sold in many thandas in this study area.

After visiting the research area of the field work, the study has realized several facts about the socio-economic status of the Lamabada women. As it is said time and again, the study has randomly selected 61 respondents. The study has witnessed the reality of the rural society. The respondents have expressed a set of reasons for their backwardness. Such mentioned by them are illiteracy, living in thands (which is almost outskirts of the village), and lack of interaction with non tribals outside of thandas, unawareness of the governmental policies, further the failure of the government initiation, patriarchal society, and their own cultures and traditions.

One of the objectives of the study is to understand the plight of Lambada community and particularly the Lambada women. Few decades ago, the Lambada women position was very good. She was highly respectful individual in their society. The head of the family used to take her blessings before he goes out for any kind of work. She was being adored by everyone without any disparity. As the society walked into transformation, new paradigms have taken place. Those new dimensions have changed the fate of Lambada women. In fact, one of the respondents have expressed that the present patriarchal system has minimized her status as well certain restrictions have been imposed on her in day to day daily life. However, she refused to express everything fearing her situation in the society. In other words, this is a small hint to say that the Lambada women plight is still miserable and pathetic. Moreover, these women are ready to accommodate themselves in contemporary society but not ready to bear anything that they don’t like. They are looking forward to cross the threshold in search of better life but at the same time they expressed inconvenience with the society. The Lambada women life is swinging between traditionalism and modernity.

Regarding the socio-economic status of Lambada women, out of 61 respondents, the majority respondents have expressed that they would be so happy if the social and economic status of women is changed accordingly. They are fedup with the earlier cultures and traditions. But, not every woman wants to undergo into the change. However, women role is restricted only to the domestic activities like cooking food, breeding children, and nursing them. They would like to participate in decision making process. It is mentioned in the field work chapter that 25 respondents have expressed their husband takes the final decision in any matter either it is related to family or non-family. This is identification that even today; some women are still ruled over by their husbands. Even in case of giving birth to children, women have no freedom. 35 respondents have mentioned that they follow their husband footsteps regarding the family planning. Some women are still feeling that they are insecure though they have everything.

Girl children to have their own tribulations. Those were the days where the girl child is used to treat without bias. But now a day, she has several restrictions and stumpy view on her life. Moreover, she has now become a burden to the family and to the society. Earlier whosoever has the girl child, they used to think the ashtalakshimi (Goddess of fortune) and Dhanalaxmi (Goddess of money) visit their home. The tradition of giving bride price was there in the earlier society too. But, that practice is different from the present practice. Earlier, bridegroom parents used to give bride price to the bride parents but now, the bride parents are in turn giving to the bridegroom parents. The bride parents offer price to bridegroom family in order to expect better life to their daughter. This custom has made the Lambada to feel the girl child is burden to the family. The perception is completely rooted out of the society. She is now cursed by her own parents. The reasons are illiteracy, nursing, marriage and expenses etc. That is the reason why 48 respondents have expressed that newly born child should be a boy rather than a girl. 78.9% of the respondents have opted for boy to be their child. Whereas one 3 respondents said they want girl child. When I carefully examined the fact, I came to know that they are slightly developed families. Nonetheless, the major portion of the Lamabada women are preferring boys than girls having fear that she is expensive and some women do not want their daughter to be in their position. This is one of reasons why they preferred to sell out their girl children. Even today, this kind of practice is going on. Nobody is there to create awareness among the Lambada community and prohibit them doing so. Some of the educated families are enjoying the social status they are least bothered this type of in human activities. However, the help from the government sector is very low. Only few schemes like self-help groups and employment guarantee schemes have provided a minimum support to them. The rest of the policies have been completely failed to develop them. In fact, few respondents have expressed that so far they have not got anything from the governments. Politicians visit them only when they need their votes after that they forget what they promised to them. They do not have proper infrastructure facilities in their thandas. This is the reason even after 60 years of independence, their socio-economic status is in pathetic condition and highly miserable.

The practice of discrimination is existed within the Lambada community. Out of 61 respondents, 47 respondents agreed that there is discrimination at all levels. First, they experience discrimination within the family and thereafter in the society. A woman needs to be under the shadow of her husband. She is never allowed to speak openly. 60% of the respondents have felt that they obey their husband’s order. She will be beaten if she refuses to obey her husband’s will. 40 respondents shared that they get beaten up by their husband now and then. All these are signifying that there is high level of discrimination. Therefore, they urgently need public attention and they need to be education soon rather than neglecting them. The functioning of the Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) role is too low here in this area. The hidden reason is the area is largely occupied by tribals.

Though the governments have implemented various policies meant for their overall development, all of them have failed to reach where the Lamabadas are living for centuries together. The basic objectives of the policies were not fulfilled. For instance,

MADA (Modified Area Development Approach) which was introduced under Tribal agency act with the purpose of total upliftment of the Lambadas has been unsuccessful. The reasons are several. Few respondents opined that other than self-help groups and DWCRA groups, they have not benefited at all.

Out of all, the study has focused on the reasons for their backwardness. Out of 61 respondents, 49 are illiterates, primary, secondary, and higher respondents are 5, 2, 5 respectively. This includes the present generation too. This is their educational background. That means, most of them are illiterates and they know nothing what is happening in and around the society. This is remarkable factor for their socio-economic backwardness. Though they do have membership in self-help groups, they get very less support from the government. 47 respondents have registered themselves in various self-help groups working in their areas. 14 of them do not have membership in any SHGs. However, the support from the government side is very less. They are expecting more subsidies from the government. Similarly, the respondents don’t have any land. They are landless labourers. They don’t have any inherent property. Since, then they started depending on agriculture and its related sectors. In order to survive themselves, they do have little cattle at home. This is how they raise their income level. Even then, they are not able to save the money because of their poverty and poor conditions.

Health is another reason for their social and economic backwardness of Lambada society. Early marriages always cause for ill health. They are unavoidable in rural areas especially in Lambada community. Most of the Lambada girls get married in between 14 – 18 years. They feel this is right age for them to get married. But, without any awareness they perform marriages. These Lambadas accustomed to Hindu religion. That has brought several changes in their thandas. The practice of dowry has taken place. It has now gone to a situation where the parents can’t afford it. Hence the Lambada parents are ruthlessly rejecting the girl child in the family. Previously, they used to consider them as their income but now they have become burden to the family. We examine that 38 have said that girl child is burden to them. The feeling of gender discrimination has originated at this juncture. Today, it reached to peak level. There the adoption centers and the practice of girl selling have initiated in the Lambada society. All these are interrelated. They are undivided.

The selling of girl child is inhuman practice. This is recent phenomena in Lambada society. The selling of girl child and infanticide are happening because of their innocence and lack of awareness and failure of government mechanization. They are very much scared because of dowry. It has posed a great challenge to their existence.  In the present society, the women and girl children are socially, economically, and educationally very much deprived.

The birth of the girl child is itself is a dissatisfied action because the girl child needs a special attention in nursing her from childhood to teenage. The girl child soon becomes an expendable commodity. The attention to take care of girls is needed more than boys. So, the notion of negligence is fixed in the minds of the parents. This discrimination is not only uneducated but also in educated families.

The Lambada women are economically dependent on the men. Because, they don’t have any financial rights and independent decision making, even though in educated families the male domination is higher than the agriculture labor families. The household work of the women is not calculated. Some of the women are sharing the family income by doing jobs and self-employment, even then there is domination. The concept of women and girl children deprivation is entered in the community by some of the educated families and economically forward people of the community. First the educated people and forward people are started to imitate the non Lambadas life in every aspect of their life. This type of imitation slowly spread the entire community. Through the cultural change is taken place but along the cultural change the material change is not taken place and the gulf taken place within the educated community, forward communities and the illiterates. So the gap between cultural change and material change is the root cause of all the problems of Lambadas.

The illiterate Lambada parents are not aware of the population growth. Some of them are waiting until the male child birth, this is led them to go more population and some have more than five girl children. This more girl children birth persuade them to give-up their children by various forms. They wife and husband are unwilling to practice or fallow the family planning. The Local Anganwadi workers and Dayis failed to sensitize the Lambada men and women to practice small family norms.

Majority of the children in the thandas are out of the school by various reasons. And they are in working various hazardous sectors like cattle breeding, domestic bonded labour (household servants), younger children care etc. Poverty, ill health, credit crunch and the desire to have a male child in the belief of to carry forward the family name are the major causes for selling the girl children.

So, the girl selling practice is gradually emerged in their thandas. Majority of the parents do not want their children back. If the children get back to home with the interference either by the police, and Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) or Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the parents are not willing to receive them. Because they are frankly saying that they have no capacity to feed and bring up them. And some of the mothers are trying to escape by saying that they don’t have breastfeed. In majority of the cases though the parents are not willing to lose their babies, the economic stress and social ignorance are pushing them towards selling their girl children.    

However, these Lambadas are politically neglected and economically challenged by the present situation. The present situations have posed big threat for their existence. The survival has become a major problem.

From the facts gathered by the study through personal visit to the villages mentioned in earlier chapters, my interaction with the respondents involved in the sale of children, the Lambadi community and the respondent’s perceptions in the field are given the following conclusions:

It is compulsory for adolescent security component in the section of WD&CW to gather and update their data on child marriages and vulnerable hamlets across the state. Though branch is driving their best energies, most of the selling of girl children incidences are not coming to the notice of the department. This is one of the challenges in recognizing such possible cases and stopping them.

The general indifference that families have towards girl children manifests in the most acute from in the Lambadi community by way of selling their girl children and sometimes even killing them. The practice of killing female infants and or selling them allowed continuing over a period of time without any action by the State provides such practice with a social sanction and such a practice in time becomes a social habit. When it becomes a social habit, racketeers come to run the society with impunity and even live with great dignity and power. The racketeers develop and impose on the society in general and the poor in particular self-serving rationalizations such as a poor woman’s girl child is better off being sold away rather than live in poverty or a poor woman’s family on the whole can better itself economically by sacrificing one of its own members for the sake of the rest of the family, etc., The poor communities come to accept such false gospel as truth and tend to lose their innate sensitivity.

While poverty has been often advanced as a reason and while there is little doubt that acute poverty prevails in the upland areas of Nalgonda District in general and becomes unmanageable for the poor in years of drought in particular. The fact that not all the poor people indulge in this practice shows that there are special reasons why the girl children of the Lambdas face this fate. This is not to down play the catalytic role of poverty in this practice but we need to go deeper into the reasons by special studies and investigation. The Lambdas seem in particular to believe that since a girl in any case has to leave the parental home after her marriage to live with her husband, the parents do not need to take the same care of the girl children as they would of their male progeny who would continue to live with them or in their own village even after they are married. “Why water a plant that is not going to grow in our own home?” is the rhetorical attitude of the community. It is not, however, as if they sell away or kill all their girl children.

They rationalize the selling away of one of their girl children, usually the last born, by arguing that by the reduction in the burden of having to maintain a large family they are better able to support the rest of the children, including their girl children. This rationalization, while certainly self-serving, is only partly so but also partly genuinely felt and believed. This, therefore, takes the question back to their acute poverty which is very real. But that this rationalization results in the sale of only female children and not male children shows the basic indifference and hostility to the girl child.

Thus, it is a combination of several factors such as a basic indifference to the existence of the girl child; acute poverty; willingness to sacrifice one of one’s own children so as to ensure a better life for the rest of the family; existence of racketeers in child trafficking and their going unchecked by those charged with the enforcement of Law; the cruel necessities of regular migration outside one’s own village rendering protection to the girl children extremely difficult; the racketeers in child trafficking using either women or men belonging to the Lambadi community itself to pretend that they are childless and that the only reason they are buying the girl children are to raise them as their own to decoy the poverty stricken Lambadi households; the choice of the racketeers favoring Lambadi girls because the Lambadi children easily stand out in our villages as fair complexioned and very beautiful endowed with attractive physical features; the relatively more attractive moral choice offered to the parents that “after all selling is better than killing” and above all the total absence of a sense of outrage at all levels of our society starting from the Lambadi community itself, the law enforcing machinery, the village community in the implementation of poverty eradication programmes, the political interference is very much , in this the blood relation, nepotism are existing due to that the actual respondents are not getting justice in the matter of government benefits.

There is a visible connection between all the various serious manifestations of poverty such as that between bonded labor and sale of children. Hence, all such manifestations have to recognize as a single organic challenge and anti-poverty programmes implemented in an integrated way targeting and focusing on the groups of people of the kind seen here, on priority.

The anti-poverty programmes should be underpinned by awareness generating social action in regard to gender issues and child rights of the kind witnessed here and the concept of convergence should mean the bringing about of an integrated strategy of this kind.

The State Government should organize a strict and transparent crack down on all those involved in this racket as a campaign and prosecute them and take other preventive measures available under the Law so that every trafficker and profiteer and their patrons get to realize how painful it can be to them if the Law is strictly administered.

The governments have to take initiatives to improve the status of the Lambadi women and girl children, in order to support them to stop neglecting, throwing out in the name of adoptions or killing their female children and to emphasize their rights and create a more humane quality of life.

Improve the Primary Health Centre’s situation in the remote thandas, and facilitate PHC’s availability to strengthen their health condition. In each thanda, the women should be trained regarding the consciousness of high populous growth and its disadvantages.

Income from agricultural and agricultural labor is the main foundation of their livelihood, landlessness, and complete dependency is the main cause for the below average and below subsistence level of their lives.

Financial assistance from the government programmes does not reaching to the actual respondents, the political involvement and recommendations are playing major role in the government welfare policy formulations.

Financial dependency, not able to access proper health care, often abuse and violence within the family and community, occasionally ill-treated by neighbors, early pregnancy, prolonged delivery, high bleeding during delivery, hypertension, stunted children, isolated social life, no Scope for further education, and less freedom are the critical consequences of early marriage expressed by the child brides.

Aspirations, & Demands from child perspective and Policy Implications: However, their aspirations says that their confidence levels are high and to fulfil their aspirations they are putting critical demands to be fulfilled by the government.

Small family norms: Many aspired for small family with two children, however awareness on family planning is very low. Mother in law and husbands are the decision makers in spacing the family. Demand made by them is proper counselling to their husbands and mother-in-law’.

Economic independence: Most of the child aspire for economic independence, however their educational background is not supporting them. Some of them have told that they need vocational training on job-oriented programs including soft skills. Those who are not interested to pursue further education after marriage, strongly aspire to have skill training course that will give chance to earn. It is therefore, job oriented vocational skill trainings have to be embedded into the present curriculum starting from secondary/higher education.

Financial support to pursue Primary education: It is one of the widely talked point. Some of the child brides have said that due to financial difficulties in the family, they were forced to drop out forms schools. If such support exists or accessible to them, perhaps their parents would have not thought of early marriage and forced them to drop out from school.

Demand for awareness Programme: Majority of the child brides have no or low awareness about their entitlements, child marriage prevention act and other child protection measures. It is essential to include such informative syllabus from the secondary education level.

 Mother’s Role: Most of the child have told that, mothers should play an intermediary role between girl children and the father and council father not to opt girl’s discrimination. In many cases, fathers are the decision makers about their daughters. In this context, it is essential to sensitize the parents on adverse impact of child selling. Mothers committees have to be formed in each one of the vulnerable village. Link it with other core stakeholders, starting From Panchayat, School, SHGs and front line health functionaries to watch the families which are vulnerable and may opt girl child discrimination.

To end this persistent practice, policymakers should recognize that addressing child marriage is not only a moral imperative, but it is also a cost-effective and strategic move to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5 by 2030. Public-private partnerships and other collaborative mechanisms need to be designed to support efforts by civil society and the private sector to combat child discrimination.

Government policy on child discrimination should focus on three critical areas: maternal and child health, family planning, and girls’ primary education. These are either one way or other related to child marriages and survival of the victims.

In this context, it is important to identify vulnerable children, vulnerable families in specific vulnerable geographical regions, collect accurate data and accordingly investments need to be planned and monitored.

What is required is the implementation of a policy that combines developmental action with strict criminal administration.

For further details may kindly contact Prof. Ramdas Rupavath on his email