By Apoorva Mandhani
The news of the Marriages Bill, 2016 (Compulsory Registration and Prevention of Wasteful Expenditure) in the Lok Sabha has had a confusing response.
The Bill was introduced by Congress MP Ranjeet Ranjan, seeking an end to the practice of opulent and extravagant weddings.
While the move is being welcomed by a few as proposed relief from societal pressures, it is being shunned by the rest as a distressing lack of understanding of basic economics at play.The Bill was introduced by Congress MP Ranjeet Ranjan, seeking an end to the practice of opulent and extravagant weddings | Picture Courtesy – Home grown
Terms and conditions applied
[su_pullquote]The Bill aims to cut down ‘extravagance’ by capping the number of guests invited, the variety of dishes served and the amount of money spent on festivities.[/su_pullquote]
According to reports, the Bill aims to cut down ‘extravagance’ by capping the number of guests invited, the variety of dishes served and the amount of money spent on festivities. Further, in the event that the wedding’s expenses exceed Rs. 5 lakh, the Bill proposes a mandatory contribution towards weddings in ‘Below Poverty line’ families. It further provides for the creation of a welfare fund by the government for this purpose. It also directs registration of marriages within 60 days of the solemnization, to facilitate improved enforcement.
The unfavorable odds
This is not the first time that a private member bill has been introduced in the Parliament. Six such unsuccessful attempts have been made in the last twenty years. Three of these bills were introduced in the Lok Sabha and the remaining three in the Rajya Sabha. Four of these bills have lapsed while two of them are still pending as per the Lok Sabha website. The objectives and reasons for these Bills have been several, ranging from an attempt to curb black money to the prevention of dowry harassment and deaths.
The common link is, however, is the fact that all attempts to cap wedding expenses have been unsuccessful in India, so far. Further, if the history of private members’ bills is an indicator — only 14 private members’ bills have been enacted so far since the commencement of Parliament in 1952 — the odds stacked against this bill going on to become a law are not favourable.All Bills to cap wedding expenses have been unsuccessful in India, so far | Picture Courtesy – Wedding Sutra
A farcical attempt
The Bill is, evidently, unwarranted and excessive government interference in private affairs of the citizens.
Further, the cap of Rs. 5 lakh is rightly being perceived as a very modest amount by existing urban middle-class standards. While the Bill intends to check “show of wealth” during weddings, it seems to be a misdirected attempt to camouflage the growing economic inequality. Intending to check the “tremendous social pressure” on poor families, it seeks to create a mirage of economic equality, disregarding the fact that it would only be prudent to actually tackle the same with improved economic policies.
Moreover, the Bill is a modern version of sumptuary laws, which try to outlaw conspicuous consumption and whose provenance stretches back to ancient Greece (in Sparta), feudal Japan and medieval Europe. In the 20th century, democratisation, industrial mass production, and the rise of consumer-oriented societies all combined to render sumptuary laws obsolete in most countries. That the precedents date back to medieval and feudal times, is worrying for a modern India.
Featured Image Source – Daily Mail
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