Reeling
under socio-economic stress, illiterate and unaware girls in one of the most
backward sub-divisions of the country, Shillai in Sirmour district of Himachal
Pradesh are being married in Haryana allegedly over ‘incentives’. 

Neighbouring state Haryana is very low on sex ratio (879 females per thousand
males) and the men from there come looking for brides in the border district of
Himachal for their own reasons.

The alarming
phenomenon is in sharp focus once again with a survey by the staff of Integrated
Child Development Scheme (ICDS) in Shillai bringing to light that over 1000
very poor and illiterate girls from 141 villages in the sub-division got
married outside, mostly in Haryana over the last one and a half decade. 

As per the
report, 155 of them were found in pathetic state of affairs whether at in-laws
place or back home. 

There were
reports of a number of cases of human trafficking under the garb of marriage,
wherein the poor girls were sent from one place to another after they were
married off.  The parents just feign ignorance once they marry their
daughters off.

The ICDS
staff had conducted the survey on the directions of Sub-Divisional Magistrate,
Shillai, Vikas Shukla.

The
officials in Shillai have been getting information on marriage of girls in
Shillai (some below 18 years of age) to people from neighbouring states with
elderly husbands. 

These
marriages are usually not registered, which compounds the problem, said
officials.

Recently,
there was a case wherein a girl (possibly a minor) from Jarva village in
Shillai was reportedly forced to get married in Jhanduta in Bilaspur district
of Himachal Pradesh and was rescued by Police later.

 “Such
cases come to my notice in routine. The behavior of parents is strange and they
refuse inquiry many times even when their daughter is in pathetic condition,
especially outside the state. Certainly there are compelling socio-economic
reasons for this. We need to find out ways to check the phenomenon,” the SDM,
Shillai told The Statesman.

Shukla has
already asked the village level committees under the Beti Bachao Beti
Padhao campaign to keep tabs on marriages of local girls with outsiders.
“Even if it is by consent, we can study the circumstances and check it if
something fishy is noticed and check the link-ups.”

In another
related step, Shukla got a survey done and found that over 400 girls had
dropped out of the government schools over a period in Shillai and has hence
served notices on Principals, School Management Committees (SMCs) and Panchayat
Pradhans. “We need to find out the reasons for this,” he said.

People in
Shillai are extremely poor and mostly illiterate. They have a tribal like
lifestyle. The area is tough with most of its villages located far from the
road that makes the people here live in isolation. The area can produce good
quality of ginger and garlic but there is no encouragement and the land
holdings are very small. Shillai has seen very less development over the years,
with politicians also taking the unaware folks for granted. 

‘We need to
have a action plan in Sirmour to check the phenomenon, wherein the people from
Haryana and Punjab, who don’t get good match in their states (with low sex
ratio) for their age, disability or status allure the parents in Shillai to
marry them their daughters by shelling out money,” find the activists with
Peoples’ Action for People in Need (PAPN) in Andheri in Sirmour, who have been
fighting against child marriages in Sirmour.