In a unique initiative to clamp down on bride trafficking from Uttarakhand, the state commission for women has roped in village pradhans who will keep track of girls from their respective areas married to men in other states. The pradhans will also submit a “well-being report” of the girls once in three months to the commission. In case the women go “missing”, the rights panel and police will reach out to her in-laws.
The project has been launched in Uttarkashi whose Moori and Purola blocks see rampant bride trafficking.
Ramindri Mandrawal, secretary, Uttarakhand State Commission For Women, said, “There are some areas of Uttarakhand where daughters are sold by poor parents. In some cases, parents are fooled by traffickers who pose as matchmakers to get the girls married to men in other states. The women are then treated as commodities and slaves. Village pradhans will now keep an eye on this.”
Hundreds of young girls in northern India are lured or sold into involuntary marriage every year, according to a 2015 report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The women are bartered at prices that vary depending on their age, beauty and virginity, and exploited under conditions that amounts to a modern form of slavery. The report cited findings of a study by NGO Shakti Vahini which said that victims were mostly from Uttarakhand, Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.
In Uttarakhand, many cases of bride trafficking from the state have come to light in the recent past. Earlier in November, two men from Jammu and one from Nepal were arrested by Pithoragarh police’s anti-human trafficking cell along the Indo-Nepal border for allegedly trafficking a minor Nepalese girl on the pretext of marriage.
Uttarakhand shares a porous 263-km-long India-Nepal border in Pithoragarh and Champawat, and the commission has plans to ask pradhans from these districts as well to help curb bride trafficking.
Arvind Kumar, pradhan of Math village in Purola block, said, “Keeping tabs on newlyweds may sound awkward but it is only by taking joint responsibility that we can eliminate bad elements from society. The villages here are small and girls are few so it is easy to do this.”