A person seeking benefits of a welfare scheme will soon have to give an undertaking that he or she will not abet a child marriage and that government benefits could be withdrawn if they renege on their promise.
This is one of the steps initiated by various departments in the run-up to the year-long campaign against child marriage commencing from the ensuing Children's Day, with the Department of Women and Child Development being the nodal agency.
The circular on this was recently issued by the Additional Chief Secretary to all departmental secretaries. Following this, new application forms for schemes being printed now — such as the application for the Bhagyalakshmi scheme for girl children — come with this clause. They will also carry a slogan stating that child marriage is prohibited under the law.
This was one of the many recommendations of the four-member Core Committee on Prevention of child marriage headed by former Justice of Supreme Court Shivaraj V. Patil. The committee, which submitted its report in July said that this condition should be made mandatory in government schemes by November 2012. It expressed concern over prevalence of child marriages, particularly in the nine north Karnataka districts, including Bagalkot, where nearly half the women marry before they turn 18.
As per the committee's recommendation, the Revenue Department has also issued an elaborate set of guidelines on mass marriages, as many child marriages take place in such events.
The department's guidelines include those on registration of organisation conducting the marriage, thorough verification of age proof documents and mandatory presence of Child Development Project Officer in the events and so on.
On Children's Day, the Department of Women and Child Development will also be issuing identity cards to child marriage prohibition officers, so that they can exercise their enforcement authority. The Revenue Department has also sent out circulars making it mandatory for all marriage halls, temples and other places where weddings take place to display a board stating that marriage of girls below 18 years and boys below 21 is a punishable offence.