In view of rising incidents of Indian brides being deserted by their NRI husbands, the government has decided to shortly put in place a system of uniform marriage registration process to curb the practice that has ruined the lives of thousands of women.
The registration form is being introduced to easily track overseas grooms who desert their wives and for initiating legal action against them. It will be applicable for marriages registered across the country under any of the three marriage registration acts.
The idea was discussed and ratified recently during an inter-ministerial meeting with representatives from the Ministries of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), Law and Justice, External Affairs and National Commission of Women, and is currently awaiting a final clearance from the Ministry of Law and Justice.
The number of deserted NRI brides currently stands at over 25,000 according to some government estimates. Over a year after the MOIA launched a scheme to provide legal aid to Indian women deserted by their overseas spouses, the ministry has been flooded with requests from deserted Indian brides seeking to know the whereabouts of their husbands.
"In most cases deserted wives are unable to provide much detail of their husbands. The new registration form will have columns for social security number of the overseas husband, passport details and ID/labour card details," a highly placed official of the MOIA, told PTI.
The bride and the groom will also have to state that there had been no exchange of dowry, they are not blood relations, and other details in the four-page form.
"We are hopeful this will act as a formidable deterrence for even habitual offenders as a database of all the marriages will also be maintained," said the official.
The new marriage registration form will have provisions for punishing the signatories for wrong declaration of any of the information as per provisions under the Indian Penal Code.
Once the draft registration form is cleared by the Ministry of Law and Justice the registration format will be applicable to all states and union territories.
The scheme to provide financial assistance to deserted Indian wives was launched by the government last February and the maximum number of requests for aid have been received from Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
"A maximum number of the over 275 complaints that we have received is from Punjab. In about 24 cases financial assistance of $ 1000 each was provided by the Indian embassies of Australia, New Zealand and United States to aid in registration and representation for divorce suits," said another MOIA official here, adding, "our efforts are just a trickle so far and much more needs to be done."
Officials noted that in most cases the assumption that a NRI groom is always "well off" often leads to parents marrying off their daughters in a rush and in secrecy. The ministry is worried that the trend pervades class distinctions making even well-educated women victims of this phenomenon.
Now holding that "prevention is better than cure", the MOIA is trying its level best to raise awareness on the issue.