Help for ‘holiday wives’
Parneet Singh, the new passport officer at Jalandhar, the buckle of the NRI belt—Doaba—in Punjab, has brought a ray of hope for wives deserted by the NRI husbands.
“Now my husband cannot go back to the US until our matrimonial case is decided by the court,” says Nandini Sharma of Amritsar, who was deserted by her US-based husband. Saravjit Kaur, who married a UK-based NRI in 2002 and was deserted in 2003, says, “He got married twice but couldn’t escape the passport office net.” The Jalandhar office has impounded passports of both the NRI husbands.
Like Nandini and Saravjit, thousands of deserted wives have found relief at the Women Grievance Section, which Singh set up in February this year at the passport office. When he joined in August 2010, he found an alarming number of women being deserted by NRI husbands who married them while holidaying in India and then left the country alone—never to call their wives abroad.
According to the National Commission for Women, out of 30,000 women deserted by NRI husbands, 15,000 belong to the Doaba region alone. And only 159 of such husbands have been booked in the past three years. Singh says he brainstormed for six months and realised that the existing laws were enough to tackle this problem; he decided to impound passports of the runaway husbands who were moving freely abroad. “I found that in Section 10 (3) of the Passport Act, 1967, the NRI grooms who have deserted their brides and fled from the country can escape no more. For perhaps the first time in the country, this section was used against offending grooms,” says Singh.
Till date, the Women Grievance Section has received 205 complaints. Passports of 62 accused have been impounded and among these, 19 were found to be proclaimed offenders.
Singh has also asked the state government to make it mandatory while registering a marriage to mention the NRI groom’s social security number, permanent address and contact number in the foreign country and submit an affidavit on the matrimonial status and a copy of the passport.
The affected women or their families can email their complaints to the Women Grievance Section at email@example.com or call their helpline at 0-84274-71823. The passports of the accused are impounded either by the passport office here or the Indian missions abroad.
Parveen Bhatti says her husband had deserted her just after their wedding in 2008. On her complaint, the passport office impounded his passport—just a few hours before he was to fly out of the country, posing as single.