ROURKELA: Child marriages are still prevalent in Rourkela Smart City and other parts of tribal-dominated Sundargarh district. According to reports, one Raju Munda (32) of West Singhbhum district in adjacent Jharkhand had come to marry a minor girl (16) of Mundajor village under Lathikata police limits near here on March 10. But, the girl managed to escape. Her younger sister (14) was forcibly taken by Munda as the girl’s father failed to return `8,051 that he had received from the former as per the tribal ritual.
“The girl was rescued from Munda’s house in the presence of her father and brother. However, no case was registered in the matter as no complaint was filed by the girl or her family. She was sent to the open shelter of ChildLine,” Lathikata police station IIC HK Naik said.Child Welfare Committee (CWC) member RC Behera said the girl’s statement would be recorded on Thursday. Police and District Child Protection Officer would be asked to submit action taken reports, Behera added.
ChildLine coordinator Amber Alam said incidents of child marriage occur in the district at frequent intervals and majority of the cases go unreported. On February 20, they had rescued a 14-year-old non-tribal girl from the marriage altar at Kali temple of Malgodam area. The groom, Shambhu Prasad (25), was handed over to Uditnagar Police here. In 2016, Hathibari Police in Nugaon block had stopped marriage of a minor tribal girl, Alam added. According to sources, elopement of minor couples is common in tribal culture. Complaints are seldom registered in such cases.
In 2015, a 17-year-old college boy, with help of his uncle, had allegedly kidnapped his female classmate after terrorising her father at gun point on Kachhar-Sankraposh road under Bargaon police limits. Later, police rescued the girl and arrested the accused on charges of kidnapping and rape. Police said the boy had abducted the girl and kept her in confinement for a week in 2014. He released the girl only after her father agreed to get perform their marriage.
Rourkela legislator and former Union Minister Dilip Ray had also expressed concern over the increasing instances of child marriage in the district. National Family Health Survey-4 of 2015-16 stated that 7.6 per cent of the females in Odisha in the age group of 15-19 years were already mothers or pregnant at the time of responding to the survey.