Jun 16, 2010
My wants are many, and, if told,
Would muster many a score;
And we each wish a mint of gold,
I still should long for more.
- John Quincy Adam, 6th US President (1767-1848).
This seems to be the attitude of NRI (non-resident Indian) husband–hunters. Their ambition makes them look beyond eligible Indian bachelors. Loaded with money to give obscene amount of dowry, the NRI husband hunter is driven by ambition of good life in the promised lands – USA, Canada, UK, etc. And, when wedding is over, the eyes are opened to realities and the new bride, in some cases, is either not taken to the promised land on many pretexts, or taken and made to work as domestic and, in worst situations, physically and mentally abused and allowed to slave away or packed off back to India. So, a new problem of desertion by NRI husbands has surfaced and is engaging the attention of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA). Is desertion by husbands a novelty in India? Why this over-concern for brides deserted by NRIs? But, first the facts, or status, on the subject.
Indian missions in the above-noted countries are finding it difficult to implement the Union government’s scheme to help women duped or deserted by their NRI husbands, primarily due to strict privacy laws of these countries and exorbitant legal expenses.
A parliamentary panel had recently recommended that MOIA should make the ceiling of expenses to be incurred in each case flexible keeping in view the location-specific costs of litigation. It also asked the ministry to ensure wide publicity to the scheme and seek suggestions from overseas missions to get rid of the procedural hassles, ensuring that Indian women deserted by their NRI husbands could avail its benefits. The allocation for the MOIA’s scheme of providing legal assistance ranged from Rs.2 lakh in 2008-09 to Rs. 15 lakh in 2009-10. But Lok Sabh’s Standing Committee on External Affairs pointed out that as many as nine Indian Missions had failed to utilize the funds allocated for the scheme in the two years.
According to the scheme, the assistance is limited to US $1,500 per case and is t be released to Indian Women’s Organisations, Indian Community Associations and other NGOs, which are ready to help distressed women in filing litigations against deserter husbands. But the High Commission in London wrote to MOIA saying that it could not utilize funds earmarked by the ministry “due to extremely low ceiling fixed in the budget for handling each case. The UK is one of the most expensive places in the world and the budgetary allocation is barely sufficient even for one hearing of a case”. The Indian Consulate General in Chicago wrote that all cases of abuse reported to it were governed by Illinos Domestic Violence Act and the legislation prohibited releasing the name, passport and social security number or other details of the victims. This was why the NGOs had not been able to reveal the identities of potential beneficiaries to claim for assistance. Similar reports have also come from Indian Embassy in Washington and High Commission in Ottawa.
Marriages with NRIs, particularly from US, UK, Canada and countries in Gulf, has led a large number of Indian women to trouble. Some NRIs desert their newly married wives even before taking them abroad, often after squeezing out hefty dowry from the bride’s parents. In some cases, the women are taken abroad, but brutally abused and battered.
The MOIA had launched the scheme to provide some assistance to such women, who find their dreams shattered and are rendered helpless far away from their home. If their condition looks pitiable on the face, they brought it on themselves by their over-ambition. They have taken a risk and they should face the consequences. Government of India is not flush with money to throw it away to rescue damsels in distress of their own making. It has other priorities back home to expend its resources.
Finally, we seem to go by one side of the story. It is not that all brides, dressed in pure white, are angels and all bridegrooms, in dark suits, are downright devils. What is promised at the engagement and during pre-nuptial liaisons and what is delivered post-marriage may have shocked the husbands to act as alleged. In this context it is apt to cite Robert Burns, Scottish poet (1759-1796):
Cursed be the man, the poorest wretch in life,
The crouching vassal, to the tyrant wife,
Who has no will but by her high permission;
Who has not sixpence but in her possession;
Who must to her his dear friend’s secrets tell;
Who dreads a curtain lecture worse then hell.
Were such the wife had fallen to my part,
I’d break her spirit or I’d break her heart.
We should remember that lapse of time (and in this case also distance of geography) makes a difference, as William Shakespeare, English dramatic poet (1564-1616) notes in As You Like It: “Men are April when they woo, December when they wed; Maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives.” He also tells us in Merchant of Venice that “Hanging and wiving goes by destiny”.
John B. Monteiro, author and journalist, is editor of his website www.welcometoreason.com (Interactive Cerebral Challenger)
John Monteiro - Recent Archives: