The Congress in Meghalaya alleged that the ruling National People's Party (NPP) has failed to protect women and children, "with the state faring poorly on the infant and maternal mortality rate indexes”.
Addressing a press meet in the poll-bound state on Thursday, AICC media coordinator Bobbeeta Sharma said that the NPP had in 2018 election manifesto promised to empower women in Meghalaya but "data tells us another story".
"The fifth round of the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS-5 2019-20) has exposed the condition of the healthcare system in the state. Only 26% of all children under the age of 12 months have received any immunisation," she stated.
The Maternal Mortality Rate stood at 197 per 100,000 and the Infant Mortality Rate stands at 34 per 1,000 live births, she noted. "The NPP had claimed that institutional delivery in the state has gone up to 64% but latest data from NFHS 5 shows that it stood at 58%, which is much lower than the national average of 88.6%," Sharma said.
"About 46.5% of children are stunted (height for age ration due to lack of nutrition) (NFHS5). The rates of teenage pregnancy are 7.9% in the state, which is higher than the national average of 6.8%. The state also has a high rate of child marriage at 16.6%," she underlined.
The Conrad Sangma-led government had announced that it would take steps to decrease the school dropout rate, but the gross enrolment ratio in 2019-20 for Meghalaya suggests that the "state features behind other north-eastern states" such as Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur in the list, Sharma said. Lashing out at the ruling party, the AICC leader stated that Meghalaya has also failed to curb crimes against women.
"The NCRB data in 2021 shows the number of cases of crimes against women in Meghalaya is 685, much higher than other north-eastern states," she said.
Asserting that her party was sensitive to the needs of women of Meghalaya, Sharma said efforts will be made to find them all a meaningful source of income, if the Congress comes to power. Sharma stated that the Congress is committed to providing free health care for all citizens and entrepreneurship training for women. "The Congress has always encouraged women in politics. The party has had women MLAs, cabinet ministers in Meghalaya, besides a Rajya Sabha MP," she said.
"Our party acknowledges the importance of women's participation in the decision-making process. We are fielding 10 women candidates in the assembly polls, the youngest among them being 28," she added. Elections are scheduled to be held in Meghalaya on February 27. Votes will be counted on March 2.