NRI grooms who believe "holiday marriages" are an easy way to make some money can think again. In just two months, the regional passport office (RPO) here has confiscated the passports of 48 men who married, allegedly got dowry, dumped their wives and attempted to flee the country.
In Punjab's Doaba area, an NRI groom is a prize catch. But many women have had a bitter experience. There have been numerous instances of men settled abroad coming back to marry and abandoning their wives after taking away their money and valuables.
To stem this exploitation, the RPO, which functions under the Ministry of External Affairs, initiated a women's grievance cell in February.
"We have established a 'women's grievance cell' to hear complaints from women who have been duped by their NRI husbands. So far, we have confiscated 48 passports of errant husbands by invoking a legal provision of the Passport Act, 1967," Parneet Singh, the passport officer of the Jalandhar RPO, told IANS.
The complainant has to submit the marriage certificate, copy of the First Information Report (FIR) filed with the police and documents detailing husband's name, date of birth and address.
"Over 100 complaints are still under our scrutiny and we would soon take appropriate action," the official said.
Once the complaint is received, he said, a show cause notice is issued. If there is no response to the notice, the passport is confiscated when the NRI shows it at the airport.
"Then he cannot leave the country until the matter is resolved, either legally or through mutual consent," he added.
"However, if he manages to flee, then we inform the Indian embassy in that country and he would be immediately deported to India, depending on the merits of the case," Parneet Singh said.
According to the passport office officials, Section 10 (3) of the Passport Act says the issuing authority can impound the passport in the public interest after giving a show cause notice.
The Jalandhar RPO caters to Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr and Kapurthala districts.
According to an RPO official, around 15,000 girls from Doaba region, consisting of Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala districts, were duped by their NRI husbands during the last few years.
Jalandhar has the maximum number of such cases.
The officials have also directed district marriage officers to provide details about marriages involving NRI grooms so that their wives' names can be added to the passports.
The initiative has encouraged women to come out and voice their grievances.
"Manjit Singh had married me in October 2009 and left for Italy after two months. He had promised to call me to Italy in another three months. But since then he has snapped all relations with us and does not answer our calls," a 28-year-old from Jalandhar told IANS.
"My parents had given expensive gifts and huge dowry to him. I have filed a complaint against him at the RPO office. I hope that my husband will be deported to India and strict punishment will be given to him," said the woman, who did not want her name to be made public.
Other women have also been encouraged to come forward.
Kirpal Kaur, another victim from Jalandhar, told IANS: "A Canada-based man deceived me last year. He married me and took me to various places in India and disappeared with my cash and jewellery. Now I am also planning to approach the RPO against him."