The magisterial probe was ordered after allegation that as many as 350 women were put through virginity and pregnancy tests under the ’Mukhyamantri Kanyadan Yojana’ at Harad on June 7.
An inquiry into allegations of forced pregnancy tests on prospective brides at a State-sponsored mass marriage in Betul has not found evidence that the tests were conducted. At the mass marriage, under the Mukhyamantri Kanyadan Yojana in Betul’s Hardoo village on June 7, it was reported that Gond and Korku Adivasi women were subjected to pregnancy tests before the function.
TV channels aired footage of health workers who admitted they had checked at least 350 brides. Prospective brides, who were turned away from the function after being found pregnant, were also interviewed. Nine couples were sent away and the household items given by the State were recovered from them.
The report, authored by Assistant Collector Neha Marvya has found that no pregnancy kits were available with health workers to conduct the tests. However, she has found Chicholi Janpad Panchayat CEO V.K. Singh guilty of not floating tenders for procuring the household items. Ms. Marvya has also recommended disciplinary action against health department employee Durga Malvi who spoke to the press on the day.
Narmadapuram Division Commissioner Arun Tiwari told The Hindu that it was journalists who alerted the district officials that some of the brides looked pregnant. “The health workers were there for any medical emergency. They only reported women who were visibly pregnant. For this scheme they [the brides] should not look pregnant. It makes a bad scene.”
He added that tenders were not floated in haste and that Ms. Malvi would be admonished for her “irresponsible statements.”
The rules of the scheme stipulate that the couple should not have been married to each other earlier. There is no mention of pregnancy in the eligibility criteria. Among Adivasis in the region, it is common to cohabit before the wedding. The practical constraint before the administration is the difficulty to verify who has been married earlier as many couples do not register their marriages.
Anurag Modi of the Shramik Adivasi Sanghatan in Betul alleged that the administration forced victims to change their statements. “This is a clear case of coercion. The government is trying to hush the case up as it is a huge embarrassment to the BJP government. If there were no kits issued, then the collector could have issued a statement on the same day. The victims and the officials have admitted on TV that tests were conducted.”
Sources confirmed that statements of victims and officials were videographed on June 13 by the inquiry team.
Local MLA Geeta Uikey of the BJP, who had initially raised her voice against the humiliation of the Adivasi women, told this reporter, “If the report says there were no tests we must believe the collector. I have not seen the report yet as the collector is in Bangalore. He knows best.”