By Sharanya Gopinathan
A private member’s Bill to be introduced in the Lok Sabha by MP Ranjeet Ranjan, called the Marriages (Compulsory Registration and Prevention of Wasteful Expenditure) Bill, 2016, wants to address wasteful and excessive expenditure on weddings with a view to reduce ostentatious displays of wealth and the consequent social pressure on families to have lavish weddings.
The Bill seeks to require that if a family spends more than five lakh rupees on a wedding, 10 percent of that expenditure is to be contributed to a welfare fund to be used for – get this – the marriages of girls from poor families.
While we agree that it makes sense to scale back some of the crazy that’s become ubiquitous at Indian weddings these days, it’s bizarre to see that lawmakers think that this money is best utilised in helping girls get married. What implicit gain does the government always think is contained in getting girls married? The money that would be gained from this proposed charge could instead be used in ways that actually benefit women, like increased healthcare expenditure, the Nirbhaya fund, schemes that would directly help Dalit and Adivasi women or setting up more efficient family courts.
But it seems like the lawmakers and the government are just obsessed with helping girls from underprivileged families get married, and will never tire of thinking up innovative ways to do it. While many states have official funds to do this, the Kerala state government wins all prizes for creativity. In 2014, the Kerala government actually launched a weekly lottery to help girls get married and obviously, it’s called “Mangalya Lotteries”.