Considering a surge in cases of child marriage (below the age of 18 years) of Assam women as reported by the National Report of the fifth round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), the Himanta Biswa Sarma led State government is carrying the crackdown against child marriages.
As per the latest development, Assam police have arrested 2258 people, across the state, involved in child marriage incidents.
Police said they have a list of 8,000 accused and as the drive continues, the figures will increase.
The drive was launched on Thursday night after CM Himanta Biswa Sarma chaired a video-conference meeting with senior officials of the police department directing them to launch a crackdown to rid the state of the evil practice of child marriage.
This episode of this slew of crackdowns dates back to May 5, 2022, when the Health Ministry released the fifth report of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), carried out in 2019 and 2020.
The report, following a fine and detailed reading by the Assam government, showed serious concerns regarding child marriage, teenage pregnancy, and maternal mortality.
It was found in the report that 31.8 per cent of women in Assam between 20-24 age were married at a minor age or before 18 years. This was even higher than the national average of 23.3 per cent.
Of these 31.8 per cent of women, more than half (50.8 per cent) cases were from All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) MP Badruddin Ajmal’s parliamentary constituency, Dhubri.
As per the government, child marriage leads to teenage pregnancy in women causing maternal deaths in the state.
In a bid to reduce these numbers, a State cabinet meeting was held under the chairmanship of CM Sarma, where the key issue of ‘child marriage’ was discussed and it was decided to begin a major drive soon across the State in this regard.
As per the Assam government, the key decisions taken following the cabinet meeting include, reducing Infant Mortality Rate, Maternal Mortality Rate and preventing child marriages in rural areas.
The cabinet also decided to designate Secretaries of 2,197 Gram Panchayat as ‘Child Marriage Prevention (Prohibition) Officers’ under The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
“These officers will lodge FIR under POCSO Act in cases where the age of the bride is under 14 years and under The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 in cases where the bride is between 14 years to 18 years,” the Assam government said.
Suddenly, a state-wide crackdown was launched against child marriages following a meeting of CM Biswa Sarma with top police personnel including Superintendents of Police of all districts.
Assam Police spokesperson Prasanta Kumar Bhuyan on Saturday said that so far 2,170 people involved in child marriage cases have been arrested in the state.
According to the Assam police data, 139 people have been arrested in Biswanath, 126 in Dhubri, 120 in Baksa, 114 in Barpeta, 97 in Nagaon, 96 in Hojai, 94 in Kokrajhar, 87 in Bongaigaon, 79 in Karimganj, 76 in Hailakandi, 72 in Cachar, 72 in Goalpara district in cases related to child marriage.
Director General of Assam Police (DGP) GP Singh, while addressing a press conference on Friday, said that 4,074 cases related to child marriage have been registered at different police stations across the state.
Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma informed that the crackdown against child marriages in the state would continue in the coming days.