Rajat Sharma

How thousands of brides in Punjab cheated their in-laws after settling abroad

AKB30 Today I want to sound a note of caution about a dangerous trend that is being noticed in Punjab. There have been several thousand cases in which families spent lakhs of rupees in sending their daughters-in-law to countries like Canada, Australia and United Kingdom with the hope that they would send spouse visa so that their sons could go abroad, live a good life and earn money in foreign currency. But the hopes of many of these families were dashed when these daughters-in-law, after reaching abroad, disowned their husbands, and in some cases, sent them to jail in foreign land.

According to one report, nearly Rs 150 crores were spent by these families in educating and arranging travel for their brides in order to go to countries like Canada, Australia and UK, over the last five years. Nearly 3,600 brides later cheated their in-laws and disowned their husbands after they settled abroad. In common parlance, in Punjab, it is known as ‘contract marriage’.

The report says, more than 3,300 such complaints have been filed by the cheated families with the Ministry of External Affairs, and out of these, three thousand cases are from Punjab. In the last six months, nearly 200 such cases of cheating have been reported. Most of these cheated families are running from pillar to post in police stations and law courts.

According to this ‘contract marriage’ in Punjab, families of young men who want to settle abroad, enter into matrimonial alliance with girls who have passed IELTS (International English Language Testing System), an essential prerequisite for Indian students who want to study abroad in universities in USA, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In IELTS exam, the English speaking, listening and writing skills of candidates are tested. The groom’s family foots the bill for visa fee, overseas education fee, travel charges and overseas stay of the bride. This runs up to Rs 25 to 50 lakhs.

The groom’s family spends money in the hope that she would ultimately get permanent residence there and then send spouse visa to her husband to go and stay with her in foreign land. Touts and local agents approach families of prospective grooms with details of girls who have cleared IELTS exam. A marriage contract is reached and the groom’s family agrees to spend lakhs of rupees in the hope that the bride, on reaching foreign shores, will send spouse visa to her husband. In the last three months, 30 such cheating cases have been reported from Ludhiana and 70 cases from Jalandhar.

India TV reporters Gonika Arora and Puneet Parinja travelled to several districts of Punjab to meet the families who have been cheated by their brides. They visited Jalandhar, Moga, Ferozepur and Ludhiana to meet the families. In most of the cases, the brides on reaching abroad, changed their telephone numbers, remained incommunicado and, in some of the cases, sent their husbands to jails by making false charges.

Our reporters met Amrit Lal, resident of Talwandi Bhai of Ferozepur, who said, he married his son Onkar Singh to a girl Manveen (name changed) in April, 2018. Manveen had scored well in IELTS exam, and got study visa for a university in Canada. The groom’s family footed the hefty study visa bill, deposited security money, and, in all, spent Rs 46 lakh by selling their property and vehicles. The bride came to India thrice during her study, and on insistence from her in-laws, took her husband Onkar Singh on a spouse visa in September 2019. On reaching Canada with her husband, she levelled charges of sexual harassment and rape, her husband was jailed and his passport was seized by Canadian authorities. Onkar Singh now works as a truck mechanic, while his wife, who left him, is having a fun time.

In Banga locality of Jalandhar, lives Chaman Lal, who, on March 25, 2018, married his son Gaurav to Kusum Kumari (name changed), who had cleared her IELTS exam and had got a study visa for a university in Canada. Kusum left for Canada a month after her marriage. The groom’s family regularly deposited thousands of dollars to pay for her semester fees. They also paid for her flight and stay, and spent more than Rs 35 lakhs, by hypothecating their property. Kusum sent spouse visa for her husband, but when Gaurav reached Toronto airport, he found that Kusum had changed her phone number and had simply vanished. The result: Gaurav’s spouse visa was cancelled, and his visitor visa is about to expire. If he fails to return to India, he may be sent to jail.

In Moga, Bhupinder and Rupinder (name changed) married in May, 2019 after a marriage contract was arranged by a middleman. The groom’s family spent lakhs of rupees on her study visa, security money, travel and stay. The bridge left for Canada a month after her marriage, and vanished. Since then, Bhupinder has been waiting for a spouse visa for the last two years from his wife, but she has stopped contacting him.

There has been few cases in which the bride and her parents were arrested. In Rudka village of Ludhiana district, Avaninder Singh married Sumandeep (name changed) in July, 2018. As per ‘contract’, Avaninder’s parents transferred Rs 10 lakh to the bride’s parents, instead of transferring money directly to her account. Sumandeep’s visa application was rejected on technical grounds, and she immediately left for her parents’ home in Sangrur. When Avaninder went to bring back his wife from her paternal home, her parents filed cases of domestic violence and dowry against his family. After both cases were dismissed, Avaninder’s parents failed case of cheating against the bride’s family. The bride and her parents were arrested, but Avaninder’s family is yet to get back their money.

In most of such cases of cheating, local police has been unable to take action because the brides are in foreign land. Complaints were sent to Indian consulates and embassies abroad, and also with the Ministry of External Affairs. None of the family members of brides agreed to speak on camera. The number of cases against NRIs has gone up to nearly 15,000, and most of them are related to matrimonial frauds. When people seek shortcuts by spending money on brides in order to send their sons to settle in foreign land, such incidents of cheating are bound to occur.

My advice to such families which enter into ‘marriage contract’ is: Do not trust travel agents or middlemen. Judge a girl by her character. Families who want their sons to settle abroad should learn lesson from such mistakes. There is no shortcut to hard work in order to acquire qualifications to settle abroad. Stay alert and advise others to stay alert too.

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