New Delhi, Feb. 18: If you have chosen an overseas groom for your daughter, turn for crucial advice to the country’s newest and biggest wedding planner ' the Indian government.
Realising that many NRI marriages aren’t exactly made in heaven, the Centre has stepped into the business of organising “happily ever after” endings.
Amid the piling complaints of NRI grooms cheating, abandoning or battering their Indian wives once they leave the country’s shores, the ministry for overseas Indian affairs is coming out with a booklet offering a string of dos and don’ts for would-be brides and their families.
The government will back this up by opening centres abroad ' starting with the US, Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Gulf ' that will offer legal, medical and social counselling to abused women and operate helplines for them.
For further help, the booklet says, a bride’s family must arm her with the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the police and state authorities of the foreign town or city that would be her home after marriage. On its part, the booklet provides a handy index of addresses and services, in a country-wise manner, which can be contacted in emergencies.
For the most part, the booklet, titled “Marriages to Overseas Indians”, focuses on how to avoid being duped by a groom who may be already married, may have lied about his profession, income or possessions, or hidden his criminal history. It advises the girls and their parents to never decide in haste but to make a series of careful checks on the grooms.
A bride must also be tutored on the laws of the foreign country and her rights there, especially relating to abuse, neglect and domestic violence, the guidelines say. The family must find out and tell her if she can get residence permit and other legal protections if ill-treated at her new home.
A draft of the guidelines was circulated today at the first “national consultation on marriages to overseas Indians” in New Delhi, attended by, among others, National Commission for Women chairperson Girija Vyas. The suggestions offered will be included in the booklet, which is expected to be published by April.
At the meeting, Vyas mentioned the “disturbing trend of' easy dissolution of such marriages by the foreign courts even though their solemnisation took place in India as per the Indian laws”.
British deputy high commissioner Mark Runacres suggested the booklet itself provide country-specific information on laws and women’s rights.
The minister for overseas Indian affairs, Vayalar Ravi, who presided over the meeting, said his ministry had little role to play in securing the extradition of NRI husbands who, with wives at home, dupe Indian women into second marriages.
“It is for the ministry of home affairs to look into such complaints. The existing laws are sufficient'. what we need is strict enforcement,” the minister said.
The booklet, which will carry illustrations and will be translated into Indian languages, also informs women about Indian laws against domestic violence and dowry. It touches on divorce laws, explaining women’s right to maintenance, alimony and child custody.
Lest brides’ parents take the advice lightly, the booklet cites instances of cheating and domestic violence. It mentions alleged scamster Ranjit Singh, arrested in 2004 by Punjab police, who swindled families out of millions of rupees in dowry only for the grooms to vanish after marriage.