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Sanjay Kumar (13), student of class VII at Gadoli village in Tonk district is leading a life of ‘Galedia’. Galedia in local language is the one who has been left by his/her parents for getting remarried under Nata Pratha.
Kumar while speaking was not looking at eyes and kept his head hanging. When he was asked about the problems being faced being abandoned by his mother after nata pratha, he said in one line, “Mera dard na jaane koi (No one knows my pain)”.
After lot of cajoling, he said, “I live with my maternal grandfather (nana), as my mother has gone to another man under an ancient practice named Nata Pratha. I do not have any friends to share my feelings and I feel lonely. Villagers call me and other such children Galedia. “
Ladu, Kumar’s nana says that when Kumar was 15 days old, his mother came home after a fight with her husband Kajod. After two years, Kumar’s mother went with another guy Hem Raj and her in-laws refused to accept Kumar and his biological father Kajod after the fight with his wife left the home and became sanyasi. “I am quite worried about Kumar’s future. What will happen after my death, he questioned.
Nata Pratha is an age old custom in Rajasthan among tribal communities in which men and women are allowed to live together without marriage, as many times as they want. Pink City Cycle Rickshaw Chalak Union (PCCRCU) secretary Vipin Tiwari informing about this tradition said that according to the custom, the man has to pay to live with a woman to he wants to and woman’s parents and community members decide the amount. The same applies with woman too. If she is not happy with her husband or his drinking and other habits, she can leave him and live with another man of her choice and the other man has to pay the money.
This custom is common in among tribal communities including Bhil, Meena and even in other castes such as Bairwa, Jat and Mali. This custom was for men and women who were married or lost their spouse. In this ancient practice the children are the worst sufferers; women leave their children behind as their new husband is not willing to accept children from her first husband. This causes multiple vulnerabilities to children who are forced to live with their grandparents or other relatives.
Tiwari said that children get away from their biological parents after the parents get separated and get married under nata pratha. These children live with their grandparents or other relatives but they are not looked with dignity in the society.
He said government has been demanded to look into such children and include such children in Palanhar scheme in which the family that raise orphans are given Rs 1000 per month, but the irony is that these children abandoned by parents do not get if their father is alive.
Many such children to provided financial support to their grandparents who raise them start working as child labourer. Tiwari said that the government has been demanded to make special budget for education and raising of such children.
PCCRCU secretary said that such children are even taken to other parts of the country to work as child labourer by paying money to their guardians.
A study available on such children was conducted by Vaagdhara and UNICEF on 79 children in 18 villages of two blocks of Aspur and Sabla in Dungarpur district of Rajasthan in 2016.
The study states that 50% of children affected with Nata Pratha do not have friends or anybody to share their problem with, 13% of children face humiliation at schools because of nata in their family, 6% of them face verbal and physical abuse, while 22% of them reported that they see violence in families in daily life after nata relation. The children without their mother never went to school than the children with a mother at home in any possible way.
The study further says that 38% of children feel after nata in their family children are suffering, either they are being exploited in terms of household chores or been beaten.
Vaagdhara’s Jayesh Joshi said that majority of people believe that Nata Pratha has an adverse effect on children. They are left alone after mother goes to nata or when new mother comes, their needs are neglected, they do not get proper medical care during diseases, people and other children tease them.
He further added that in such children boys are worst affected as they have to face negligence as they will be heir of father’s property so relatives fearing to share the property tries to make him run away from home, so there is no hindrance in right on property.
Vaagdhara, the NGO also demanded the government for a strong and clear law to protect rights of children affected by nata pratha to ensure their smooth development and there should be strict law for family and women to take care of the children in family environment with protected rights of property to the child.