Jodhpur, May 1: Rajasthan administration has made elaborate measures to tackle the menace of child marriages, a custom prevalent in the rural areas, on the holy occasion of "Akshaya Tritiya" on May 2.
"Right from setting up a 24 hours control room to receive complaints of child marriages to gearing up the entire system and NGOs in villages to keep an eye on such practices, the administration adopts every possible measure. "But the parents are one step ahead by devising the modus operandi in order to evade the legal implications and dodge the watchers," said Kriti Bharti of Sarthi Foundation.
"Considering the alertness of the administration, the parents now prefer to solemnize the child marriage on Seeta Navami, another auspicious day for the purpose, which falls 6 days later," said a gram sevak on condition of anonymity. He said in order to escape the eyes of the watchdogs, the parents in the rural areas, solemnize the marriages of their minor wards in the fields and not at their homes or even marry them off in the cover of elder couples' weddings.
Interestingly, the government functionaries in the villages like patwaries, teachers etc, on whom the administration is heavily dependent on for the information about child marriages, hardly dare to act as informer. "They have to live and work with the villagers. They can not afford to incur their wrath by daring to stop child marriages," said an NGO worker.
Officials also hardly show any willingness to rise up against this social evil
Similarly, the public representatives also hardly show any willingness to rise up against this social evil. A social worker active in Western Rajasthan said, "the villagers vote for them and the public representatives like ward panches, sarpanches, pradhans and even MLAs and MPs do not dare to antagonise their voters by meddling with their "customs". "Instead, they not only participate in these weddings but also facilitate parents in conducting them," he said.
Though awareness campaigns have started bringing results and some youth have started rising against retrograde social practice, the NGOs have motivated people to inform about the occurrences of child marriages in their respective areas. As a result of this, the number of child marriages in Rajasthan has dropped from 58.4 per cent in last decade to almost 22 per cent.