Congress MP’s Bill seeking cap on wedding expense is undemocratic, but with a noble purpose

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New Delhi | Updated: February 16, 2017 12:07:42 PM

A new Bill seeking to put a limit on the number of guests one can invite and dishes that can be served in weddings may be bizarre and undemocratic. But it has a noble intention.

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A new Bill seeking to put a limit on the number of guests one can invite and dishes that can be served in weddings may be bizarre and undemocratic. But it has a noble intention. The Bill has been introduced in the Parliament by Congress MP Ranjeet Ranjan, wife of tainted Bihar MP Pappu Yadav. With the Bill, Ranjan wants to check “show of wealth” during weddings. She also wants people spending over Rs 5 lakh to contribute towards marriages of poor girls.

The Bill says that if a family spends above Rs 5 lakh on a wedding, it should contribute 10 per cent of the amount for marriages of girls from poor families. Families intending to spend over Rs 5 lakh should declare the proposed expenditure to an authority and 10% of the expenditure should be deposited in a welfare fund to be set up by the government to facilitate marriages of poor girls.

According to a PTI report, The Marriages (Compulsory Registration and Prevention of Wasteful Expenditure) Bill, 2016, may be taken up as a private member’s Bill in the upcoming Lok Sabha session. Ranjeet told that news agency that the purpose of this Bill is to prohibit extravagant and wasteful expenditure on marriages.

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“Great importance should be assigned to the solemnisation of marriage between two individuals. But unfortunately, these days a tendency of celebrating marriages with pomp and show and spending lavishly growing in the country. These days, marriages are more about showing off your wealth and as a result, poor families are under tremendous social pressure to spend more. This is needed to be checked as it is not good for society at large,” she was quoted as saying.

Further, the Bill calls for compulsory registration of marriages within 60 days of solemnization. Moreover, the government may fix the limit of guests and relatives and number of dishes to be served to the guests and relatives for solemnisation of marriage or for the reception to prevent the wastage of food items.

In India, people have the right to decide as to how they want to spend their money. Any cap on personal expenditure enforced by the government would be undemocratic. Not only this, if approved, this bill would slow down the entire wedding industry that provides employment to million of individuals in the country. As per estimates, the marriage industry in India is worth over Rs 1 lakh crore and, probably, one of the few growing at the rate 25-30% annually. But at the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that show of wealth during big fat weddings is a social malaise. Not only the rich show off their wealth by spending crores during weddings, poor and middle-class families also squeeze whatever savings they have to fund the weddings of their daughters. Scores of families fail to arrange weddings of their daughters in want of money.

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While the rich can do whatever they want to with their money, it is the poor and middle-class families that end up spending their important money which can be used for other purposes such as education and health of their children.

With India being a predominantly poor country, the Bill, if formed into a law, would help in changing the perceptions around marriage. But then, will it withstand the test of democracy and allow the decline of the wedding industry in a job-starved country?

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