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New Delhi, June 7, 2020
The Government of India has set up a Task Force to examine matters pertaining to the age of motherhood, imperatives of lowering maternal mortality rate (MMR), improvement of nutritional levels and related issues.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, during her Budget Speech for 2020-21 in Parliament, had recommended setting up of the task force. She had stated that women’s age of marriage was increased from 15 years to 18 years in 1978, by amending erstwhile Sharda Act of 1929. As India progresses further, opportunities open up for women to pursue higher education and careers. There are imperatives of lowering MMR as well as improvement of nutrition levels. The entire issue about the age of a girl entering motherhood needs to be seen in this light.
Accordingly, the Government announced setting up of the task force in a gazette notification issued on June 4, 2020. With Jaya Jaitly as Chairperson, the task force has as ex-officio members Vinod Paul, Member (Health), Niti Aayog; Secretary, Health and Family Welfare; Secretary, Women & Child Development; Secretary, Higher Education; Secretary, School Education & Literacy and Secretary, Legislative Department.
Najma Akhtar (New Delhi), Vasudha Kamath (Maharashtra) and Dipti Shah (Gujarat) will be members of the task force.
Under the terms of reference of the task force, it will examine the correlation of age of marriage and motherhood with the health, medical well-being and nutritional status of mother and neonate/infant/child, during pregnancy and birth.
Thereafter, it will examine key parameters like Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), Total Fertility Rate (TFR), Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB), Child Sex Ratio (CSR) etc. and any other relevant points pertaining to health and nutrition in this context.
The task force will suggest measures for promoting higher education among women. It will suggest suitable legislative instruments and/or amendments in existing laws to support the recommendations.
It will work out a detailed roll-out plan with timelines to implement the recommendations. The task force may invite other experts to its meetings if and as required. The task force will be provided secretarial assistance by the NITI Aayog and it will submit its report by July 31 this year, an official press release added.