TIEING THE KNOT THE SECOND TIME

During my recent visit to India, I met the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Mr Shivaraj Singh Chouhan and Smt Archana Chitnis, the Hon’ble Minister of Women & Child Development supported us while we were trying to organise an event there. We had some meaningful meetings and both the Indian leaders were very keen on supporting our cause, of improving the conditions of widows and their children in India.

Following my meeting, I was pleasantly surprised that the Hon’ble CM has announced that the government of Madhya Pradesh will give Rs 2 Lakhs to the person who would marry a widow. This was declared within two weeks of my meeting with Mr Shivaraj Singh Chouhan.

The government also said that it was the first such initiative in the country and the MP government is setting aside Rs 20 crore a year for the scheme that should kick off in the next three months. As the Founder and Chairman Trustee of the Loomba Foundation, a charity that has been taking care of widows and their children across the world for the past two decades, I am really pleased by this initiative. This very encouraging step is expecting 1,000 widow remarriages every year, to begin with.

However, the brainwave to promote widow remarriage could have possible gaps, and the government needs to be cautious of these. The first catch is that the bride must be below 45 years of age. This scheme isolates the older and the more vulnerable widows of the society, as nothing is in the anvil for them, exposing them to the ills of widowhood in India.

The cash reward for widow remarriage can be a luring factor for getting married, more like a bribe, and could expose the wife to mistreatment, or even abandonment after the groom receives money from the government for marrying her.

To ensure that the scheme isn't misused, the government has put forward certain conditions.

The most important being that it should be the man's first marriage.

Secondly, that the couple will have to get the marriage registered in the district collectorate.

I strongly welcome similar proposals by other Chief Ministers of India.

The Loomba Foundation is an UN-accredited NGO as we have worked in many countries, including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Syria, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Malawi, Rwanda, Chile and Guatemala. However, our focus at present is on India, as the country has a record 46 million widows – by far the largest widows residing in any country of the world.