The Inside Story
BHOPAL: Brides are being bought in Madhya Pradesh - sometimes in exchange for a buffalo and some cash. It might have sounded bizarre had there not been such a tragic tinge to it.

In districts like Ashoknagar and Guna, where men far outnumber women probably due to female foeticide, desperate grooms are turning to human traffickers to find a wife. It's no problem if they don't have deep pockets -- the 'matchmaker' kindly accepts a buffalo as part payment.

Traffickers providing brides, who are mostly 14-16 years old, are reportedly from an interstate gang, claim cops from Maharashtra who rescued three minor girls from Shadora village in Ashoknagar on February 20. One of the girls had been sold for Rs 50,000 and a buffalo, and another for Rs 35,000. The third girl was first sold for Rs 30,000, but she returned to the agent as the buyer was not treating her well. She was then re-sold in Shadora for Rs 35,000. All three are from Chandrapur district of Maharashtra.

SHO of Ram Nagar police station in Chandrapur district, Yogesh Pardi, who led the rescue team, said they were looking for two more minor girls in the case. He cited another case involving a bovine bride price. "Traffickers took a buffalo from a would-be groom of Shadora village who had only Rs 50,000 in cash, while the total fee was Rs 75,000," Pardi said. The buyers of the three girls would be arrested soon, he added.

The police, however, seem to be buffaloed by the problem of how to curb the crime. It's a difficult task, says Pardhi, as poverty prevents most of the victims and their families from filing complaints. "The girls are mostly from poor families and slum areas and the buyers keep them as wives. So the girls don't complain. There is a very dense network of these agents and there are at least two in every tehsil," claimed Pardi.

Sources said the presence of 'brides' from other states indicates a strong network of traffickers. But the MP police seem to be in denial. Ashoknagar SP Kumar Saurabh claimed that he has not received any complaint of trafficking in girls in the district so far. Station in-charge at Nai Sarai police station in Ashoknagar, RK Pacholi, acknowledged the presence of brides from other states, but saw nothing unusual in that: "A local resident Balvir married a girl from Odisha but as they had communication problems the girl wanted to return to her native place. A police team took her home. There are other Odisha girls also married to local people. I know about at least two living in Ishagarh village. But they have learned Hindi and are happy, so it's not a case of trafficking."

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