A child's rights organisation in Hyderabad has accused the police of failing to stop the wedding of a minor girl in Chipparalla Banda Thanda in Jangaon districtâ€™s Devaruppala mandal, despite the organisation informing officials well in advance.
Achyuta Rao, honorary president of the Balala Hakkula Sangham (BHS) said that the minor, who has completed her Class X, was married off against her will to a 40-year-old liquor shop owner.
"We received information about the marriage from an Anganwadi teacher in the village on June 22. We immediately ordered a probe but came to know that the marriage had already taken place on June 21," said Premalatha, superintendent of Children's Home Institution, a part of the district child welfare committee which is conducting the probe into the incident.
"The man who is already married was marrying the girl to conceive children. Despite informing the authorities early on June 21, the local sub-inspector of Devaruppala was hesitant to file a case citing various flimsy reasons," Achyuta said.
According to reports, the parents of the minor had submitted ID proofs to the sub-inspector which showed the girl was over 17 years of age. However, according to district child welfare committee officials, who have verified her academic records, the girl is only 16 years old.
"The sub-inspector was shown a copy of the girl's Aadhaar ID. We have verified the academic records of the girl which show she was a minor. We can get a clarity on her age only after further inquiry," she added. The girl has been rehabilitated at a state child shelter home.
The Devaruppala sub-inspector was unavailable for comment.
Achyuta has claimed that officials conducting the inquiry have accessed a conversation between the sub-inspector, groom and the minor's father where the sub-inspector is heard asking for a bribe and giving a 'go-ahead' for the marriage.
The organisation has demanded action against the police officials for negligence and the groom to be charged for rape under POCSO and Child Marriage Prevention Act. Eight minor girls in the district from child marriages in the recent past by the organisation.
â€śGirls are being married off against their will at tender ages and yet the state officials are reluctant to conduct awareness programmes in villages against child marriage. It is a case of state apathy where even the local police authorities, who are the immediate stakeholders as per law in preventing the child marriages, refuse to address the issue. The state has also not taken action against a single police official for dereliction of duty,â€ť said Achyuta.
He also said that in many cases, victims call helpline numbers and plead for help. "The state has to step up to educate the parents and lodge the girls in state shelter homes to avoid such untoward incidents," he added.