Even as the Himachal government pushed the issue of marriages of poor girls from Shillai in Sirmaur district to men from Haryana allegedly over ‘benefits’ under the carpet, the National Commission for Women has decided to dig out the truth.
A three-membered committee of the NCW headed by Commission member Rekha Bhardwaj is visiting Shillai on February 13 and 14 to look into the alleged phenomenon of ‘trafficking of women from Shillai under the garb of marriages’ under economic stress.
Shillai, bordering Uttarakhand, is one of the most backward sub-divisions in the country, where people are living in abject poverty and unawareness. The area has faced political neglect for long.
“We are going there with legal experts. We will meet the local officials and some affected families in Shillai to find out the real story and the reasons,” Rekha Bhardwaj told The Statesman over phone.
She had visited Shimla in December for public hearing, where the issue of marriages of girls from Shillai came to her notice.
“I had talked to the Director General of Police, Himachal Pradesh and even the Chairperson of HP State Commission for Women. They denied it without ordering any probe into it socially or legally,”she said.
The NCW member said the phenomenon was serious and needs a thorough probe to find out solutions.
The issue was highlighted by The Statesman on November 23 last year, when the then Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Shillai had reportedly got a survey done by staff of Integrated Chid Development Scheme (ICDS) on marriages of poor and illiterate Shillai girls to men from neighbouring states.
The survey reportedly indicated 1000 very poor and almost illiterate girls from 141 villages in the sub-division got married outside, mostly in Haryana (which has low sex ratio) over the last one and a half decade over ‘undeclared benefits’.
Sources said the intention was to trace them after marriages as there were reports that a number of girls were in pathetic condition and their marriages were not registered due to unawareness.
Union Women and Child Development minister, Maneka Gandhi had then sought report from the state government and had asked the Sirmour district administration to do IEC (information, Education and Communication) campaign in Sirmaur to create awareness in the area.
But not only that the Congress government in Himachal went into denial mode on this, the opposition BJP too did not raise much voice over the issue for reasons unknown.
Later, the state government had transferred the SDM from Shillai, who got the survey done in public interest and tried to aware the people about their rights in politically neglected area of Sirmaur, despite public protests.