In what could be termed a blot on TN's image, information obtained through the RTI Act has revealed that at least 3,326 adolescent girls below 18 got married and became pregnant in six years between January 2015 to December 2020 in Krishnagiri district alone. Moreover, the pandemic led to an escalation of the practise as 830 teenage pregnancies were recorded in 2020 alone. Also, not a single FIR was filed against the child marriages.
The RTI petition was filed by social activist Prabakaran, Project Manager, Samooga Kalvi Niruvanam, an NGO in Vandalur, in which he sought data of pregnant adolescent girls in TN, but the Health Department provided information only on Krishnagiri. However, data on prevention of child marriages and the FIRs were obtained for the entire State. "Krishnagiri is known for high number of child marriages. The data only mentions institutional deliveries but there could be many cases of non-institutional deliveries," Prabakaran told DT Next. Other information showed government officials managed to prevent child marriages only 228 times from 2015 to 2020. "The huge gap in numbers between teenage pregnancies and prevention of child marriages show that officials of Social Welfare Department work only on paper," said Prabakaran.
When asked, Social Welfare Department Secretary Shambu Kalolikar said that child marriage cases had indeed increased during pandemic. "It is also true that there were mobility and monitoring issues during that period. Now we have stopped most child marriages and filed cases against parents, including under the Pocso Act," he said.