In drought-hit Maharashtra, young ‘brides’ have good resale value #Vaw


By Ganesh N, IE

With drought in Maharashtra, ‘selling’ and ‘reselling’ of brides is likely to become an increasingly lucrative business for nefarious elements—the bride agents. It has been known that the agents scour Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu to look for prospective brides for men from gender-skewed regions of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, western regions of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district, which has been officially tagged as one of the most backward districts in the country, has become one of favoured hunting spots for these agents.

A recent case, in which five adolescent girls went missing from the district, saw the political mercury in the district soar and the police swing into action. It was a 700-kilometre trail that the police had to follow. With the five girls from the slum being sold as ‘brides’ to desperate unmarried men in Madhya Pradesh, a special team of the Maharashtra Police had to pursue the case in Ashok Nagar district in the neighbouring state. Led by Assistant Inspector Yogesh Pardhi, the Maharashtra Police team was determined to bring back the girls, aged between 16 and 20.

What Pardhi and his team learnt during the investigation was quite intriguing. The police had managed to arrest one of the agents who had sold one of the minor girls to a man from Shadora village in Ashok Nagar in Madhya Pradesh. Police team found out that the agents who sold off those women got Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000 for every woman sold. However, one of the five girls from Chandrapur, who had been sold for Rs 30,000, had returned to her agent owing to the ill-treatment at the hands of her owner. The agent was too happy to resell her a second time and pocketed Rs 35,000. Pardhi had no answer as to why the girl did not return to her family when she had the opportunity, and instead approached her agent.

Though Pardhi had no answers, Shafiqur Rehman Khan of Campaign Against Bride Trafficking has them. “The ceremony solemnising such marriages are most appropriately called as Thag Vivah (cheat marriage). Rarely does the bride enjoy the social status of a wife. These women are either known as Paro brides, as in stolen, or Molki brides as in purchased,” said Khan. He explains Molki brides have to physically satisfy more than one person and also double as labourer on the fields.

The trading of brides also means that the few genuine bride seekers are finding it difficult to ‘stay’ married. When a 50-year-old businessman from Jaipur in Rajasthan had married a bride from Maharashtra, he thought it was coincidence that the two brides that he had earlier purchased from agents had run away. In two months the man has spent Rs 2.50 lakh on three brides. However, his third bride from Maharashtra too ran away. Subsequent police investigation revealed that agents and the brides were hand-in glove and were sold again. The agents are finding selling brides more lucrative than dealing in brothels. And more than the buyers, the agents are more keen to sell brides owing to demand in northern states. Khan fears that with drought in Maharashtra, agents would have a field day recruiting new brides as poor families are happy to have one less mouth to feed.

Though Khan believes that it is difficult to put a precise number on the quantum of bride trafficking, he estimates that there are about dozen such brides in every village of Haryana. As agents come up with offers of new brides, the time spent by the bride in particular household is also limited. “The old brides are sold to procure new ones. It is very similar to the cattle market. The market for brides as per our study is growing steadily at the rate 20 per cent every year,” said Khan.

 

Police drop activist from programme after Sena threat


ALOK DESHPANDE, The Hindu, Jan 7, Mumbai

The police authorities in Maharashtra continue to surrender to the diktat of Shiv Sena, despite facing flak from all quarters over the arrest of two girls in Palghar a month ago.

This time, the police authorities have dropped a speaker from their programme, after the Sena warned her against entering Chiplun, a town in Ratnagiri district, where the event is scheduled to be held.

In the backdrop of the gang rape in Delhi, the Chiplun police authorities have arranged a special programme for girls and women in the city on January 8. The authorities had invited Pushpa Bhave, a senior social worker, author and prominent activist working on gender issues and women’s rights in Maharashtra.

Chiplun will also host the annual Marathi literary meet from January 11 and the podium has been named after Sena chief Bal Thackeray. On Saturday, Ms. Bhave criticised the organisers of the festival for naming the podium after Thackeray, who, she said had ‘insulted’ many Marathi authors in the past and was not a writer.

“My point was very simple. I opposed the podium being named after him. He has insulted many great Marathi authors in extremely low level language. The podium is always named after someone who has done great service to literature, which he hasn’t done. Hence I opposed it,” Ms. Bhave told The Hindu.

Irked by her opposition, the local unit of Sena declared that the party would not allow her inside Chiplun city. The local leaders took a mob of around 200 activists to the police station and pressured them to cancel her part in the programme.

“Instead of letting the issue heat up, we cancelled her part,” Uttam Jagdale, police inspector at the Chiplun station told The Hindu over telephone. “We try to maintain good relations with all political parties. We did what we thought was best,” he said.

The Sena leaders praised the authorities for removing her from the programme. “Even they knew that if she had come here, the situation could have worsened,” said Bala Kadam, the Chiplun city unit chief of the Sena. “Nobody should speak against Balasaheb. That lady [Ms. Bhave] was doing this for publicity, but we won’t let her do it at the expense of our late leader,” said Mr. Kadam.

Ms. Bhave expressed no surprise at the police action. “This is what we have been seeing all these years… Sena does not believe in discussion and criticism in democracy,” she said.

 

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