New Zealand and Australia are fast becoming new hot spots for rising cases of fraudulent marriages by Non-Resident Indians for receiving large dowry, if one goes by government assessment.
Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, who visited both the countries last month, said he was worried over the growing menace, particularly in New Zealand, and was planning to take measures so that young girls do not fall into such traps.
As a first step, Ravi said the government would launch an awareness campaign in Punjab, the state to which most of the victims belong, to make people aware about the realities as well as precautions to be taken to avoid such exploitation.
"Australia and New Zealand have become destinations for this disaster," he told PTI.
Expressing serious concern over such exploitation, the Minister said young girls are lured to the wedlock for getting dowry and as and when their visit visa expires, they do not have any legal status and are forced to return to India.
"In New Zealand, the minimum marriage age for girls is 16 years. So imagine the plight of an young girl if she faces such harassment," he said.
"We are planning to launch an awareness programme to educate people about the menace. I will also write to Punjab Chief Minister to take necessary steps to ensure that our girls do not face any harassment," Ravi added.
Asked whether Government could bring the guilty to book or approach the authorities in New Zealand to take action against NRIs involved in such marriages, a senior official in the Ministry said it was difficult to ensure punishment for them. "Moreover, taking dowry is not an offence in New Zealand," the official said.
According to estimates, the Indian population in New Zealand is little over one lakh which is 2.6 per cent of the total population of the country. The Indian population in Australia is estimated to be around 2.5 lakh.
The Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry has already set up a cell to help redress grievances of the victims of failed NRI marriages.
Concerned over increasing number of failed NRI marriages, the National Commission of Women had earlier this year strongly advocated framing of a comprehensive legislation to address issues like maintenance of spouse, child custody and settlement of properties.
The Commission had urged the Ministry of External Affairs to ask Indian embassies to sensitise the Home Departments of foreign countries about the issues regarding dowry demands and other problems facing women.