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School Girl Asked For Help on FB, IAS Officer Responded on Time, Saved Her From Child Marriage

A 13-year-old girl who was forced to sit for marriage reached out for help on social media An IAS officer who is posted in Eluru as Collector saw it and immediately sent a team to rescue her The guardians were made to sign a bond of Rs. 50,000, which they will be obliged to pay if they try to get the girl married off again
Indian Masterminds Stories

Child marriage was made illegal in India in 1929 with the ‘Child Marriage Restraint Act’. But, the dark truth is, even after 134 years, child marriages are still taking place clandestinely.

One such case came to light in Eluru district of Andhra Pradesh, where a 13-year-old tribal girl decided to defy parental pressure and ask for help from the District Collector through social media platform, Facebook. She sent a message on Eluru Collector’s Facebook page. And the Collector, IAS officer Y Prasanna Venkatesh, instantly responded and sent Child Protection Service Officers to save the minor girl.

Indian Masterminds interacted with IAS officer Y Prasanna Venkatesh, Collector of Eluru, to get more details about the incident.

CHILD MARRIAGE STOPPED ON TIME

The girl hails from the Chenchu tribal community and lives in Eluru city. She lost her father when she was a year old. Her mother remarried and left the town recently. So, the girl stated living with her paternal grandparents. Facing hardship in taking care of her, they wanted to get rid of the girl and, hence, decided to get her married to a 20-year-old boy.

On 15 September, they got the girl engaged to that boy. When the girl realized that there is no other way to escape the marriage, she started thinking of taking help from someone.

Mr. Prasanna said, “She was eager to study and not get married. She somehow knew about the Collector’s FB page and sent an SOS message there for help and we immediately responded. She requested me to stop her marriage and help her to pursue her education.”

IAS officer Y Prasanna Venkatesh

He further said that the brave girl used the phone of one of her friends who had come to her engagement to send a message to the FB page, along with pictures of her engagement.

A team led by the District Child Protection Officer (DCPO), Ms Surya Chakraveni, then went to the girl’s house and held talks with the elders. She brought all the family members to the Collector, who gave counseling and made them cancel the marriage.

Ms Chakraveni said, “The girl knew that her marriage was illegal as she was not 18 year old, the minimum age of marriage for a girl in India. She is really a brave girl who decided to take matters into her own hands and alert the authorities.”

ADMINISTRATION’S SUPPORT

The district administration and the state government are providing her with all kinds of support for her education. District Collector Prasanna even went to her school to enquire about her performance in studies. He presented her a bicycle to go to school, a school bag, the uniform, and books.

IAS officer Y Prasanna Venkatesh presenting the girl child (second from left) a bicycle, books and school bag

He said, “I assured her that she would go back to school. Most girls do not dare to stand up for themselves at such an age, but this girl did. We really wish that this girl’s story will give courage to many more girls to fight against such social evils.”

The district administration also plans to make a documentary on her.

PREVENTIVE STEPS

Although child marriage was declared illegal in India in 1929, the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act (PCMA) came only in 2006. Thereafter, to strengthen the implementation of PCMA, the government appointed Child Marriage Prohibition Officers to prevent such marriages and to sensitize communities on this social evil.

But, still, such marriages are taking place every now and then. How is the Eluru administration working towards eradicating this social evil? Mr. Prasanna replied, “We carry out special drives to identify dropout girls and re-enroll them in schools. We create informal groups of adolescent girls for creating awareness. We also focus on health education for adolescent girls on anemia and teenage pregnancy.”

Meanwhile, at the state level, the government has decided to take a focused approach involving all the stakeholders, including government functionaries and civil society organisations, to put an end to the social evil and make Andhra Pradesh a child marriage-free state. In addition, government agencies are more vigilant during the months of Sravanam, Kartikam, Margasira and Magha months, which have a large scope for mass solemnization of weddings, to prevent child marriages.

Eluru Colletor FB Page

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