The Socio-Economic and Political Scenario of Kishanganj District

Located in the northeastern part of Bihar, Kishanganj district shares its borders with West-Bengal on one side and Nepal on the other. It is often described as the corridor between the northeast and the rest of the country.

According to the 2011 census, the population of the district is approximately 16,90,400 .The male population is 866970 and female population stands at 823430.The growth rate is around 30.4%. The density of population is 897 persons per square km. Not withstanding the little development opportunity available to support the bourgeoning population, 90% of the population lives in rural areas. Further, the sex ratio is 950 females to a thousand males. The child sex ratio is 971/1000.There are 346904 children in the 0-3 age group with 175962 boys and 170942 girls.

Most of the villages are located 60-75 kms away from the two main intervention areas. Some villages are densely populated while others are sparsely populated comprising mainly OBC-Surjapuri Hindus and Muslims. There are few Santhal pockets in between. The area also has concentration of Shershahbadi Bengali speaking Muslims and Rajbansi who are original inhabitants of the area. These villages observe peaceful conduct and co-exist in harmony; there is little evidence of violence stemming from religion and or caste. Most households are underprivileged and lead simple life. However, being a predominantly Muslim society, the people are conservative in their beliefs and ideas.

Some of the villages still do not have a pucca road, as they are located in the interior part of the district. They become inaccessible during monsoons and floods cutting them from the rest of the district. There is a lack of proper primary health services in the villages as most of the PHCs are conspicuously absent or dysfunctional. People have to travel to Kishanganj town or Islampur located 40-50 kms from the district in the case of emergencies.

The literacy rate of the district stands at 55.4% way below the national average. The male literacy rate is 63.6% and female literacy rate at 46 %. The girl dropout rates are also very high as they are married off at an early age. Another reason why dropout rates are so high is because girls have to travel huge distances to travel to schools. Most of the high schools are located in Kishanganj and Thakurganj towns however, primary schools lacks basic facilities. Agriculture being the main source of livelihood and occupation, there are hardly employment opportunities available in any other industry. This area has witnessed large-scale migration to cities like Delhi, Punjab and Mumbai. Despite the growth of large-scale tea cultivation, it has been confined to the marginal and big farmers. The landless families have to work as daily wageworkers. Additionally, many girls who come to study at NFE centers also work at the tea gardens. The emergence of brick-kilns has also seen people working there during lean period. Many farmers have sold their land to businessmen from Siliguri etc.

Recent elections paint a political orientation, which entails many different political parties. All the villages have prominent local leaders and Maulanas/Maulavis who are respected in the community. We have seen during course of our work that without their support it is not possible to work on sexual and reproductive health issues. Women are not politically much aware and dependent on their husbands for decision-making.

Dowry system, early marriage, gender inequality and ignorance among women are heavily prevalent. The early age for the females is 15-18 years in rural as well as urban areas. Women are highly dependent on their husbands for information, knowledge and house-related decisions. The socio-cultural inhibitions have led to low mobility of women. Women's health is overlooked and ignored. The lowest literacy rate among women is also the reason why women believe in various health related myths and misconceptions.

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