NRI wife-deserters: Hope floats with MEA proposal, but extradition remains a hurdle
Balwinder Kaur was still with her parents after delivering Navroze in 2003 when her husband Gurpiar Singh, a resident of Machhike village near Khemkaran, left for the United Kingdom. That was the last they saw him.punjab Updated: Sep 19, 2017 15:03 IST
“Will they bring him back from London?” This is the first question Balwinder Kaur and her 14-year-old daughter Navroze ask as you tell them about the proposals of a high-level panel set up by the ministry of external affairs to help women deserted by their non-resident Indian husbands. There are thousands of such women in Punjab who hope the new regulations will get them justice in their fight against absconding NRI husbands, who are untouched by the Indian laws.
Balwinder Kaur was still with her parents after delivering Navroze in 2002 when her husband Gurwaryam Singh Singh, a resident of Machhike village near Khemkaran, left for the United Kingdom. That was the last they saw him.
“I thought he will return to take us with him, but that never happened,” sighs Balwinder. Her daughter Navroze says she cajoled a relative to let her speak to him, but only got an earful. “He said he didn’t want to have anything to do with us. His sisters say he’s got remarried and has two children,” sobs the little girl, who’s joined hands with her mother to fight this battle.
It was Navroze, a student of Class VIII, who scrolled the net to come up with the number of three-time MP Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, a member of the high-level panel set up by the MEA in May this year, and a long time crusader for the rights of women deserted by NRIs.
“Gurpiar’s sisters are now trying to snatch her share of the ancestral land,” alleges Ramoowalia, who found Balwinder surviving on scraps that her brother could spare her.
This is not an unusual case of desertion in a state where NRIs remain the most prized grooms for parents and girls alike. “Over the last 20 years, I have lost count of such cases,” says Ramoowalia. “It is cruelty at its worst; they use and abuse the girls and then leave them, knowing that the Indian law cannot touch them abroad.”
“I know of cases where women have been deserted for reasons as frivolous as poorly turned out waiters at the wedding function.”
Satvinder Kaur, 37, a political science lecturer from Tuse village near Ludhiana, has suffered it. Her husband, Arvinderpal Singh, who went to Ukraine in 2010, a year after their marriage, returned in 2015 for a short holiday after which he stopped all contact with her. When her in-laws started telling people that he had left her, she approached the NRI cell and filed an FIR early this year. “My mother-in-law told me ‘court wich tainu buddhi karaange (we will drag this case till you grow old)’”, says Satvinder, who hopes the new regulations will come to her rescue.
The feisty young woman has set up an FB page called ‘NRI Fraud Victims’. “I know of at least 25 cases in and around Ludhiana,” says Satvinder, who draws her strength from her ex-serviceman father and a soldier brother, posted at the Siachen glacier.
Ramoowalia says some NRIs are like dacoits, who loot women in the garb of marriage. “I know of cases where women have been deserted for reasons as frivolous as poorly turned out waiters at the wedding function,” he fumes.
Even well-educated women fall to prey to greedy NRI grooms. An assistant sub-inspector with the Punjab police, who requested anonymity, was deserted by her husband from Los Angeles, after her parents spent 40 lakh on wedding gifts and function in 2014. “Soon after returning, he told me that I should pay for his airfare. I refused and that was the last I heard from him,” says the ASI, who has charged him with dowry and harassment. “The panel’s recommendations are good, but they should cancel the passports of the entire family,” she demands.
Even NRI women are not immune to this fraud. Ramandeep Kaur of Sudhar village, a permanent resident of New Zealand, was deserted by her husband of seven years soon after he got his PR in 2015. “He came to India and vanished after a WhatsApp message saying he wouldn’t return.” Ramandeep returned to India last year to file a complaint with the NRI cell. “I am still repaying a loan he had taken,” she fumes, deeply traumatised at being deserted.
While the women see some hope in the recommendations, Parminder Kaur Landran, chairperson of Punjab Women Commission, says she will wait and watch. “It’s not easy to extradite even those charged with heinous crimes. Unless the government makes an amendment to the existing laws or scripts a separate law for NRIs, I don’t see them facing any serious consequences.”