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West Bengal: Teen who resisted marriage twice, forced to quit studies after state fails to pay her Rs 25,000

The Kanyashree Scheme pays girls Rs 750 per annum to encourage them to study, and when they turn 18, they are paid Rs 25,000 if they aren't married

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An 18-year-old girl from West Bengal’s Purulia district, who hit headlines for resisting a forced marriage when she was 16, has been compelled to quit studies in the second year of her college because she could not get her money under the Kanyashree Scheme, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s pet project for the welfare of girls.

Hailing from a BPL family, Astami Roy is the eldest of five daughters of her family. Her father was a daily wage earner. She had passed Class XII from Barasrini Nandalal High School with 54% and struggled while getting admission to Raghunathpur College.

“I didn’t have enough money to get admission. Child activist and member of Sara Bangla Sishu Surakha Samity, Dipak Bandopadhyay helped me out and got financial help from the Rotary Club for my admission and books. I started pursuing my degree course in Arts. Later my father passed away and we were in deep trouble. I thought I will get the Kanyashree money and it will be of some help but that never happened,” Astami told DNA.

As per the provisions of the welfare scheme of the state government, once she is enrolled for the Kanyashree project she would get Rs 750 per and if she is not married when she turns 18, she would get Rs 25,000.

Thanks to some unknown technicalities, the money never got credited to her account and now, trying to fend for her family she is looking for a job. “What option do I have? I see my mother go out to work at someone’s farmland to feed us. I have four younger sisters and the youngest one is five years old,” Astami added.

Headmaster of Barasini Nandalal High School, Deepak Mondal told DNA that they had done their bit in the process. “I believe there is some problem in the online submission of application by her secondary school authorities. If she has been getting the K1 scholarship under the Kanyashree scheme, she should be getting the K2 as well,” Mondal told DNA.

Social welfare officer of the district Kali Das admitted that Astami had been felicitated after she resisted her marriage as a minor. “I am surprised that she has not got her Kanyashree money. There is a nodal officer in the district who is looking after the Kanyashree scheme. I am sure she will help her if she approaches her with an application stating details,” Das said.

In 2016, her parents Brindaban Roy and Sunita Roy had decided to get her married off. Astami had dialled Child helpline number 1098 and sought help.

After the first attempt to get her married was foiled, her aunt soon found another relationship for her. This time she slipped away from home a week before her marriage and went to the police station seeking help. She had become a face of the movement ‘Amrai Parbo’ (We can do it) against child marriage, which began on January 6, 2017. The event put up by an NGO was a week long campaign against the menace in which Astami toured the district talking to people about how she had fought against it and how young girls need to put their foot down to curb the social evil.

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