Jharkhand, carved out of the large state of Bihar in 2000, has a population of 32.9 million (Census 2011), living in about 120,000 dwellings, spread over 33,000 villages. According to Census 2001 , about 38 per cent of the people in the state belonged to the disadvantaged communities of Scheduled Tribes (26.3 per cent) and Scheduled Castes (11.8 per cent).
Out of the total population, 5.2 million (15.8 per cent) are children aged less than six years (Census 2011) and 12.7 million (38.6 per cent) are children less than 18 years (RGI projected population 2006). About 74 per cent of people live in villages (Census 2011). About 40 per cent of India’s mineral resources are in Jharkhand and it has a forest cover of 28 per cent.
UNICEF in Jharkhand works with the government, legislative committees, Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs), civil society organizations (CSOs), the media, academic institutions and others to bring about change in the following priority areas in the state :
a) Eliminating child marriage
b) Improving quality of education and girls education
c) Eliminating child labour
d) Reducing neo-natal deaths
e) Improving adverse sex ratio
f) Elimination of open defecation
g) Reducing stunting & malnutrition among children
h) Improving routine immunization
i) Prevention and treatment of diarrhoea and pneumonia
j) Addressing malaria.
The programme environment in Jharkhand faces a number of challenges in terms of political instability, left wing extremism and several systemic issues (absence of institutions, large number of vacancies, procurement bottlenecks), for achieving social, human and economic development goals. The state witnessed eight governments / chief ministers and three periods of President’s rule in the last 12 years from 2000.
A coalition government has been in place since September 2010, bringing some level of political stability. Out of 24 districts in Jharkhand, 17 districts are affected by left wing extremism (LWE) and these districts are covered under the Government of India’s Integrated Action Plan (IAP).
For the first time in Jharkhand, the three-tier Panchayat Raj Institution (District, Block and Gram Panchayat) has been set up with elections held in 2010. Power is being devolved by the state government to these local self-government bodies in terms of funds, function and functionaries, although the process is slow. A number of new initiatives have been taken by the government to improve child survival, development and protection.
These include Mukhyamantri Ladli Laxmi Yojana, a conditional cash transfer scheme to improve education of girls and to reduce child marriage; Jeevan Asha, to address maternal and child undernutrition; and Mamta Vahan, a referral-based transport system for pregnant women to reach hospital.
A number of new institutions have been set up like a State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), State Nutrition Council and State BCC Cell and a few institutions are being strengthened like SIRD and State Women’s Commission. High political commitment around issues on children is visible as Jharkhand declared 2012 “Girl Child Year” and the state’s chief minister declared “war against malnutrition”. UNICEF has established good rapport with the legislature, judiciary, media, bureaucracy and CSOs in the state to work towards ensuring child rights for all.