The article “IELTS Brides: Dangerous Trend of ‘Contractual Marriages’ in Punjab” by Satwinder Singh is a critical analysis of the conservative contractual marriages in Punjab. IELTS Brides: Dangerous Trend of  ‘Contractual Marriages’ in Punjab In a dusty village in the Barnala district of Punjab, 23-year-old Lovepreet Singh was found dead near the irrigation pump of a wheat farm… Read More »

The article “IELTS Brides: Dangerous Trend of ‘Contractual Marriages’ in Punjab” by Satwinder Singh is a critical analysis of the conservative contractual marriages in Punjab.

IELTS Brides: Dangerous Trend of ‘Contractual Marriages’ in Punjab

In a dusty village in the Barnala district of Punjab, 23-year-old Lovepreet Singh was found dead near the irrigation pump of a wheat farm under mysterious circumstances. He was one among those many victims in Punjab suffering the cons of contractual marriage. Four years ago, Lovepreet’s family funded the entire cost close to Rs. 25 Lakh so that Beant Kaur, wife of Lovepreet Singh could settle abroad. And, this would allow Lovepreet to move to Canada as well.

After one year, Beant Kaur returned to Barnala District to marry Lovepreet. After the wedding, she departed for Canada, promising Lovepreet that she would soon call him. But within weeks of her return to Canada, she stopped communicating with him. And Lovepreet took his own life. Later, Kaur, who lives in Canada, has been booked under Sections 420 (cheating) and 306 (abetment to suicide) of the IPC.

But nothing concrete has come as of now and his family is still battling to get justice. Sadly, this is not an isolated case in Punjab, one can find thousands of cases in the land of five rivers in which families spend lakh of rupees in sending their daughters-in-law abroad. The facts of these marriages are quite shameful for any Punjabi. Most of these cheated families ran from pillar to post to get justice from the authorities.

According to the non-resident Indian (NRI) wing of the Punjab Police in 2019, 4266 complaints have been received which included cases of matrimonial dispute and cheating. Both men and women filed the complaints. In an answer to a question in Lok Sabha, the Ministry of External Affairs noted in 2019 that 4,698 complaints of distressed Indian wives have been received between January 2016 and May 2019, and out of these more than three thousand cases are from Punjab.

In 2020, the tally of complaints stood at 3,829, whereas in 2021, as many as 2,248 complaints have been filed. Earlier the cases come only from wives, but nowadays similar frauds are being perpetrated against men. The state has witnessed more than 186 complaints in the last 3 years with regard to contractual marriage.

Vicious Cycle of Contractual Marriage

In the game of contractual marriage, the groom’s family funds the entire girl’s education, visa, and living expenses in exchange for facilitating a boy to settle abroad. It is a kind of mutual understanding between two families to facilitate the immigration of boys who are not scoring good grades in the IELTS (International English Language Test System) test – an English Proficiency test.

Touts and local agents approach potential groom families with information about girls who have passed the IELTS Test. Family relatives also play a vital role in the settlement of marriage that too in a hurry that parents are not left with any choice to make an inquiry about the bridegroom. Also, boys and girls from Punjab under intense family pressure do what their parents want them to do. A Contract marriage is signed without verifying their antecedents and the groom’s family foot the bill in the hope that once she reaches that foreign country, she would immediately apply for a spousal visa. At no stage do parents of the girl try to enquire about their status?

The parents of both families ignore the formalities. Such marriages usually take place within a short period of time. The cost jumps up to Rs. 25-30 lakh. However, in most cases, the girl either ghost the boy, block his number, asks for a divorce, or sometimes enters into an extra-marital affair.

Misleading Advertisements

Dozens of bogus marriage ads appear in local language newspapers or social media platforms pertaining to IELTS Contract Marriage, many of these advertisements (ads) are a rat trap by local agents. If we read such ads, the primary requirements for decent match-making are fully ignored.

For Instance, a recent matrimonial ad in a local newspaper reads “A bride is needed with a 6.5 band IELTS score, father and mother in a government job (sic)”. Another ad said, “Are you searching for IELTS-clear girls in the band of 6 and 6.5, contact XYZ Immigration (sic)”. Another Ad said, “Sikh girl with 6 Band in IELTS needs a boy who can bear her expenses to settle in Canada. Marriage would be a fake one”.

It seems that such ads are more of a kind of business of marriage. It seems as long as Punjabi youngsters are willing to be exploited and there will be exploiters in society.

State of Indian Economy: Unemployment

Contract marriage frauds are on rising due to certain desperation among Punjabi youth to seek employment abroad for a better future. Some experts believe that Punjabi youth wants to settle abroad to earn green pastures of life. But this is a half-truth. The changing socio-economic conditions in Punjab forced many youngsters to go out abroad. The quality of employment available in the manufacturing, service, and agriculture sector is poor. This does not allure the Punjabi youth in terms of employment services and they are forced to migrate abroad.

According to Rajesh Gill, Professor of Sociology at Panjab University, Chandigarh, this desperation to move abroad is due to the state of the Indian economy.

In the same cultural milieu, Punjabi youth from patriarchal society have never been encouraged to work in blue-collar jobs, Gill told The Print.

“But when these boys are out of this cultural environment, they happily accept such jobs. Also, for the same kind of job, the money they make abroad is much more,” she said. Parents send their young children abroad for good quality education, livelihood and a better future said, Gill.

Legal Issues & Insensitive Attitude of Authorities

Legal recourse for an abandoned husband is limited and narrow. Usually, Boys and their parents do not seek any legal recourse and remedy due to lengthy and tedious court procedures.

“In India, there’s no such law that recognizes abandoned husbands. If any husband is indeed abandoned, they have to take legal recourse, and their wives may be booked under Section 420 (Cheating), in case they’ve been cheated or Section 498(A) for mental cruelty,” Neerja V, ADGP NRI Affairs, Government of Punjab told The Print.

Cheated families running from pillar to post fighting never-ending battles but repeatedly encountering technical impediments relating to non-registration of FIR, issues of jurisdictions, the validity of foreign court orders, power of Indian courts, service of notices, etc.

“Since the repatriation of the girl in question is almost impossible, our only legal remedy is to get her Indian passport revoked after declaring her proclaimed offender during her trial,” Jaswinder Dhaliwal, who now runs a WhatsApp group, told The Wire.

They all share a similar story. Even if the boy sought legal action against the girl by initiating legal proceedings under criminal law but unsuccessful because the girl does not respond to the summons. Such boys are embroiled in time-consuming court cases. Another major problem faced by the boy’s families is the insensitive attitude of government officials and insulting Behavior, which obstruct them from having easy access to justice.

The Way Forward

The institution of marriage was considered a sacrament till a few decades ago, nowadays has become a ticket abroad. Rather than pussyfooting around, Punjab Government should develop a plan to respond to socio-legal challenges. The way forward for State is to invest more in quality education to engage the Punjabi youth in employment. Better employment opportunities in the state could offer a ray of hope to these youngsters.

Foreign missions and embassies in India of the respective foreign countries must help the victims. Strict legal measures need to be taken in order to curb the menace of desertion. Free legal aid cells and counseling centers need to be set up in all districts of Punjab to provide support and information to the victims with regard to visas, passports, and other legal statutory needed for staying abroad. Let the entire society rise in creating awareness regarding such marriages to ward off adverse situations.


References

  1. Chahat Suri, “Contract Marriages Frauds Are On The Rise In Punjab” The Logical Indian, Aug 9, 2021, Available Here
  2. Vikas Vasudeva, “Till debt do us part: Punjab’s Contract Marriages are not marital disputes but cases of cheating” The Hindu, Aug 09, 2021, Available Here
  3. Ministry of External Affairs Government of India, “Question No. 1805: Grievances of Women abandoned by NRI Husbands”,
    Available Here
  4. Vivek Gupta, “How the English Language Skills of Young Women Allow Punjabi Youths to Bypass Emigration Rules” The Wire, Aug 28, 2021, Available Here
  5. Rachna Khaira, “The Business of Marriage in Punjab” The Tribune, Dec 08, 2016, Available Here
  6. Prof. Sucha Singh Gill, “Punjab must plan & create jobs for youth” The Tribune, Jan 26, 2017, Available Here
  7. Chitleen K Sethi, “Why Punjabis Leave thousands of toy planes at this gurdwara near Jalandhar”
    The Print,
    Jan 11,2020
    , Available Here
  8. Shubhangi Misra, “Fund my Studies, I’ll get you to Canada – Now Punjabi men are being abandoned by NRI Wives” The Print, Jan 30, 2022, Available Here
  9. Vivek Gupta, “How the English Language Skills of Young Women, Available Here
  10. Vivek Gupta, “How the English Language Skills of Young Women Allow Punjabi Youths to Bypass Emigration Rules” The Wire, Aug 28, 2021,
    Available Here

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Updated On 2022-03-18T06:48:33+05:30
Satwinder Singh

Satwinder Singh

UNIVERSITY INSTITUTE OF LEGAL STUDIES PANJAB UNIVERSITY CHANDIGARH

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