Tag Archives: Bihar

Brides purchased, then exploited in Haryana, Punjab

Decades of unchecked sex-selective abortions have made the once fertile States of Punjab and Haryana suffer a drought of brides, making human-trafficking a lucrative and expanding trade. Often projected as a voluntary marriage, every year, thousands of young women and girls are lured into the idea of a happy married life with a rich man in Punjab or Haryana. Sadly most ‘purchased brides’ are exploited, denied basic rights, duplicated as maids, and eventually abandoned.

Only solution

With skewed sex ratios (Punjab-893, Haryana-877 females per 1,000 males) it is impossible to find a bride for each man, and ‘importing a bride’ has become the only solution. Also, with the tradition of not marrying within the same village and eligible girls marrying the wealthiest suitor, often NRIs, the majority of men in villages are left unmarried and often addicted to drugs.

“What is wrong in marrying a poor girl? I demanded no dowry, rather her family’s social and economic position has improved,” said an agitated Prakash Singh of Harsola village in Kaithal (Haryana), when asked why he married a 19-year-old girl hailing from a poor village from Assam. Interestingly, Mr. Singh has three brothers and no sister; he does not believe that there is any dearth of women in his village.

“There were no eligible girls in our village or social circle. After my son turned 35, we realised that unless we accept a non-Punjabi girl he would never be married and no one would carry the family name forward; so we had to make arrangements,” said Mahinder Singh, an elderly man in Pohlo Majra, Fatehgarh Sahib (Punjab). The migration might seem to be a measure to correct the gender imbalance, but the ultimate goal is producing sons.

“Marriage to an imported bride makes caste, language and culture immaterial as long as the price is paid to the girl’s family and a male child is born. Depending on the age, looks and virginity of a girl, grooms pay anywhere from Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 300,000,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, a non-governmental organisation working on the issue.

The obvious need gives the practice a social sanction and makes it look like a social service: Sushma Kaur of Pohlo Majra, who married a Sikh man 15 years elder to her, calls it a ‘blessing.’ “My uncle arranged the match, it was difficult in the beginning because of the new language and the culture, but my husband took care of me…My village in Bengal has an excess of females and no one to care for them, and it is a great service if I can arrange a matrimonial match. Ever since I got married, 10 years ago, over a dozen girls have followed me from Bengal,” she says with pride. She added that none of the girls were ill-treated; however, it was not unheard of.

A field study on the impact of sex ratio on the pattern of marriages in Haryana by Drishti Stree Adhyayan Prabodhan Kendra covering over 10,000 households, revealed that over 9,000 married women in Haryana were bought from other States. The study which covered 92 villages of Mahendragarh, Sirsa, Karnal, Sonepat, and Mewat districts said that most of the people accepted it as a common practice, but denied having bought a bride in their family.

Most untraceable

“In every village there are over 50 girls that have been bought; some of them as young as 13 and a very small percentage of the ‘sold for marriage’ women are found to be living a married life. Most are untraceable or exploited or duplicated as domestic servants by the agents or men who marry/buy them. There are also instances of girls being resold to other persons after living a married life for a few years,” the study added.

Most of them come from poverty-ridden villages of Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa, because their families need money; and despite the prevalence of the dowry system in the north Indian states, men are ready to pay for a wife.

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declining sex ratio forces ‘import’ of brides

CHANDIGARH: Declining sex ratios have compelled farmers of Punjab to “import” brides from states such as Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh leading to large-scale trafficking of women in the State. Usually, the girls are between 12 and 17 years of age.

“There isn’t any choice. Either you buy a bride or remain a bachelor who has no sons to inherit his property,” says Malkeet Singh (27) of Fatehgarh Sahib district. Scarcity of marriageable girls in his village, 40 km from here, compelled him to shop for a bride. He followed in the footsteps of his uncles and paid Rs.25,000 for his wife from a poverty-ridden village in Bihar.

According to the 2001 census, Punjab has a sex ratio of 793 girls for 1,000 boys. Fatehgarh Sahib has the country’s worst sex ratio of 754 girls for 1,000 boys (0-6 age bracket).

“Decades of sex-determination tests followed by female foeticide have resulted in an even more shameful sociological phenomenon wherein women have been reduced to son-producing machines. Women who fail to produce sons are sent back, sold or abandoned,” says Manvinder Kaur, Reader at the Centre for Women Studies, Punjab University.

No data is available on the number of girls trafficked into Punjab, but every village has a number of “bought brides”.

The trade is being carried on by the second and third generation victims. Malkeet’s aunt, Kusum Devi, also from Bihar, managed his alliance. “Marrying their daughters is a relief for the families, especially when they receive money instead of having to pay a dowry.”

According to Ameer Sultana of the Centre for women Studies at Punjab University: “Girls who are bought from poor homes are never considered equal. They have no rights and even after many years she knows that she is a commodity, which is used and often shared by all the men in the family.”

According to Ms. Kaur, “The females trafficked into this region will not correct the sex ratio as they are meant to produce only males. Education is not a solution as most of the foeticide cases reported are of educated women. We need a massive drive to make people aware of the ground realities because both tradition and technology have started to favour female foeticide. Going by the rate at which girls are going missing from Punjab and Haryana they would be a rare sight soon.”

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flood turned biharies to punjab- their second home

Bihar holds Punjab up

As the flood waters force mass evacuation in Bihar, the railway stations of Chandigarh, Ludhiana and Jullander are flooded with the migrants who have come to back to their second home- Punjab.

Jeevan lal reached the Ludhiana station a week back with 8 others from his family on the Barauni-Amritsar Janseva Express. He considers himself to be lucky as he could catch the train and bring his family along, “we had no where else to go. I worked here for over eight years. now this city is our second home,” Trains which come from Bihar to Punjab, especially Amritsar-Saharsa (Bihar) Garib Rath which comes three times a week, come overloaded and return back more o less empty, said one of the railway booking officials at Ambala Railway Station.

Although there are some who don’t know where to go most have been to the cities before and are looking for old employers to find jobs. “We decided to come back because water has ruined everything there. We don’t know when the situation will improve,” said Kumar Mahesh, who works at the industrial area in Chandigarh. He brought most of his friends from Gopalganj along with him, most of who are hoping to find employment here.

In the last year workers, particularly those in the skilled category, left in large numbers, leading to a shortage of 25-30 per cent in most enterprises. The out migration from Punjab has been explained on the basis of NREGS and the anti- Bihar emotion but the arrival would provide a solution to the problem of acute labour shortage that industry and agriculture in the state.

Bihar is said to be the ‘muscle’ behind the food basket of India. The labour shortage badly affected wheat lifting operations in the just concluded Rabi season and the labour intensive rice production hit hard in the states like Punjab and Haryana.

Owner of a seven acre farm near Ludhiana, Surjeet Man said that the migrant labour is indispensable for Punjab, “No work can go on without them. Today there is hardly any Punjabi working in the farms or factories of Punjab. From rickshaw pullers to industrial workers all are from Bihar and U.P. Over 90 per cent of the agricultural labour comes from Bihar. Last year I was paying up to three times the wages to employ labour because Bihari men were leaving the state.”

According to Dayal Singh, a fifth generation Bihari residing in Mohali, “The labour from Bihar was brought by the British to lay the railway track and build the Kathunangal canal. Most of the labourers decided to settle in Punjab. Today we are as much Punjabis as anyone else.”

In a study by Punjab Agricultural University’s Department of Economics and Sociology (with a sample size of 240 migrants, 120 local labourers and 120 farmers) 81% of migrants reported a change in the language they speak, the food they eat and the clothes they wear. Pegged at more than 10 lakh in a city of about 50 lakh people, there is one migrant from UP or Bihar for every five Punjabi.

Interestingly, in similar studies in 1978-79 and 1983-84, only 33% and 40% of migrant labourers had reported a noticeable change in their language. In the last survey, however, the change in language went up to 76%. Also, 84% of respondents reported a change of preference from the traditional favourite rice to wheat. Similarly, 88% had switched from dhoti to pyjama-kameez.

The influx of Bihari population has affected not just the industry and agriculture but the entertainment also. In Ludhiana, which accounts for about 60% of Bhojpuri film’s entire collection in north India, some single screen cinema halls on the verge of closure, Bhojpuri films have acted like a life saver.

(eom)

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