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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Social Welfare Department Fails to Prevent Minor Tribal Girl’s Marriage

MALDA, 23 APRIL: A minor tribal girl has been married against a calf, three sarees and Rs 1000 though intimation of the marriage was made through helpline well in advance. Such a shameful incident took place at a tribal village Khochakandor under Habibpur block.

As the Unicef has been conducting extensive awareness programme against child marriage across the district, the villagers of Khochakandor under Mangalpura gram panchayet of Habibpur are also aware of the serious legal implications of child marriage. Despite being conscious of the adverse effect of child marriage Maramoyee Hansda arranged marriage of her 11 year old daughter Sita though she could not be married legally.

But when the proposal came from the neighbour village Chunakandor, she could not want to miss it. “Her father (Bishu Kisku) has no concern of daughter’s marriage. But I could feel the need. Both of us frequent to other districts to reap crops, daughter is growing too. So she had to be married”, said Maramoyi.

The groom was a labour and wanted to wed Sita. He offered, true to the custom of tribal society, dowry of money, a calf and three sarees. “Nothing like it”, Maramoyi felt. “Had the girl been grown up, we could have given the dowry which is beyond our capacity.”

But the ordeal came from different corner. Local NGO Bulbulchandi and Barind Development Society got the information and informed the district early marriage pretension cell of social welfare department. But they forward the information to Child Helpline, a project of Unicef. Finally Child Helplie intimated the police to resist the marriage. Police from Habibpur police station went to Maramoyi’s house along with panchayet members on the day of wedding on 13th of this month. But Maramoyi, thanks to her 'intelligence' informed police that her daughter was 18 and half years old. And 'satisfied' police returned without taking any action. The wedding was performed with all rituals.

But the teacher in charge of Khochakandor Special Cadre Prathamik Vidyalaya where Sita was a student, showed the record of her birth. It was 10th November 2000. About Sita, she could only said: “She has stopped coming to school. We’ve heard that she got married.”

On the other hand Maramoyi, had no sense of guilt. On being asked if she was aware of the dangers lying in marrying under 18 she said: “Why not? Being a woman I know it better than. But who could look after my daughter once she grew up? Will anyone marry her without dowry?”

Police station refused to speak to comment on this issue saying the officer who went to enquire, was out of station. Upapradhan of gram pachayet Uttam Mandal who accompanied police said, “Her mother claimed that the daughter was above 18 and we returned.” He conceded that in fear of reaction among the tribal, no stern action against the marriage was taken.  

Sutapa Mukhapadhyay the district Social Welfare Officer also refused to comment on this issue. “I’m not the spokesperson of the department,” she said.

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