Plan to help women deserted by 'NRI hubbies' stuck

Strict privacy laws, legal expenses in US, Canada and UK come in way

A parliamentary panel has of late recommended that the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MoIA) should make the ceiling of expenses to be incurred in each case flexible keeping in view the location-specific cost of litigation. It also asked the MoIA to ensure wide publicity of the scheme and seek suggestions from the overseas missions to get rid of the procedural hassles, ensuring that Indian women deserted by their NRI husbands could avail its benefit.

The allocation for the MoIA’s scheme of providing legal assistance ranges from Rs 2.0 lakh in 2008-09 to Rs 15 lakh in 2009-10. But the Lok Sabha’s Standing Committee on External Affairs pointed out that as many as nine Indian Missions had failed to utilise the funds allocated for the scheme in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

According to the scheme, the assistance is limited to US $ 1,500 per case and is to be released to Indian Women’s Organisations, Indian Community Associations and other NGOs, which are ready to help distressed women in filing litigations against deserter husbands.

But the High Commission in London wrote to the MoIA saying that it could not utilise funds earmarked by the MoIA “due to extremely low ceiling fixed in the budget for handling each case. The UK is one of the most expensive places in the world and budgetary allocation is barely sufficient even for one hearing of a case,” it added.

The Indian Consulate General in Chicago wrote that all cases of abuse reported to it were governed by Illinois Domestic Violence Act and the legislation prohibited releasing the name, passport and social security number or other details of the victims. This was why the NGOs had not been able to reveal the identities of potential beneficiaries to claim for assistance.

‘Relax criteria’
The Indian Embassy in Washington suggested that the MoIA should relax the eligibility criteria to ensure that the deserving cases get covered under it.

The High Commission in Ottawa informed that none of the distressed women, who had approached it so far, had asked for legal or financial assistance. “The deserted wives (of the NRIs) and their parents are generally keen to find the correct and latest whereabouts of the (deserter) husbands with the help of the Mission. Their efforts in locating the husbands are stymied by the strict privacy laws of Canada,” it wrote.

Marriages with the NRIs, particularly from US, UK, Canada and the countries in Gulf, has led a large number of Indian women to trouble. Some NRIs desert their newly-married wives even before taking them abroad, often after squeezing out a hefty dowry from the brides’ parents. In some cases, the women are taken abroad, but brutally abused and battered.

The MoIA had launched the scheme to provide some assistance to the women, who find their dreams shattered and are rendered helpless far away from their homes.

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