The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, July 30, 2000

An Unequal Alliance

THIS refers to the article "An unequal alliance" by Nonika Singh (July 16) in which the writer has shown how the equations between eligible youngmen and women undergone a sea-change.

Dowry has become an all-important, deciding factor that clinches the issue. Marriages have become mega-events where money is splashed about recklessly.

Earlier, it was common for the parents to give dowry according to their financial capacity, but nowadays, despite all the slogans to eradicate it, quite the opposite has happened. It has assumed such mammoth proportions that in the eyes of the prospective grooms and their families, all the expensive paraphernalia that they witness in some marriages, seems to set the standards of their expectations and becomes almost mandatory. When a millionaire spends lakhs of rupees on his daughter’s wedding, others also expect at least that sort of reception, goodies and jewellery.

In the marriage market today, good looks, high education, good behaviour and all the talents under sun simply are of no consequence unless and until they are accompanied by a five-figure dowry. Except for a few cases, it has become a very convenient way to get rich overnight. The problem arises only when a majority of the fathers can’t afford to marry their daughter’s off in this fashion.

Either well-educated and good-looking girls don’t get good matches or if they do, they frequently face a lot of harassment after marriage. A bride who comes to her in-laws house without dowry is treated badly. More often than not, it ends in her death, for either she is "driven" to suicide or is literally torched. No one even bothers to take any action against the offender and even if someone does, nothing comes out of it.




Marriage, which was once considered sacrosanct, has degenerated into a business transaction especially in urban India. A woman’s occupation, potential earning capacity, physical beauty and educational qualifications might reduce the dowry, but as rightly held by Lionel Chaplin quoted by the writer, "often the reduction is minimal".

Brides are tortured and even killed by in-laws for bringing inadequate dowry. No state in that country is free from the evil of dowry. A few years back the noose of the Anti-dowry Law was tightened. But there was no respite from dowry deaths. In 1998-99 dowry deaths totalled 13,612. This is an official figure and the actual number may be higher for every such death is not reported to government agencies.

What is the way out of this ugly, unfortunate scenario? Law has totally failed to curb human greed. Society, especially women’s organisations, have to come forward to educate parents. Parents have to be told that if they have daughters-in-law they have daughters too.


Emergency revisited

Apropos of Chanchal Sarkar’s "Emergency revisited" (July 9), the proclamation of Emergency was an act of political desperation by Indira Gandhi. The 19-month nightmare that followed the imposition of Emergency saw many fighters turn fugitives. Thousands were whisked away into the darkness of the prison cells and subjected to unheard of brutalities. Men and women were driven to family planning camps for forced sterilisation. Sycophants and anti-social elements had a field day even as houses and bazaars were being bulldozed into rubble.

But why only blame Indira Gandhi and Sanjay? It was the bureaucracy that had lost its spine. It revelled in the new power it had got. If they wanted they could have resisted the Emergency, delayed decisions, sat on files, like they do now. Instead, they came up with crazy plans and even offered incentives like ghee tins for sterilisation operations.

The country witnessed an unprecedented collapse of the intelligentsia during the Emergency. Dissenters were either in prison or sulking. The Press too buckled. Especially the national Press and the big names in journalism. Many giants kowtowed to the regime. Barring one or two dailies, the other newspapers sang praise for the Emergency. Congress President Devkant Barooah’s statement that "Indira is India and India is Indira" was an all time low in sycophancy.

Even judiciary bowed down to make way for the ruthless personal ambition and the civil liberties were gagged. Political workers were refused bail for months together. The District Magistrate detained hundreds of persons without any grounds or a basis for their detention. Alas, not a single IAS Officer refused to sign their mala fide detention orders.

The Congress was routed in the elections that followed. The third week of March 1977 witnessed a Diwali-like celebrations in the country with the declaration of results. The harbingers of freedom unseated the corrupt and shamelessly authoritarian regime but the memories of their dark deeds still remain etched in the minds of those who bore the brunt of Emergency.