As many as 3,768 complaints were received by Indians missions and posts in foreign shores from distressed Indian women during 2014-17, the government informed the Lok Sabha on March 14. Most complaints are related to dowry and ill-treatment by Non-Resident India (NRI) husbands.
In a written response to a question in the Lok Sabha, VK Singh, the Minister of State for External Affairs, said that in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the Indian missions abroad received 276, 796 and 1,510 complaints, respectively, associated with dowry and ill-treatment. In 2017, the missions received 1,186 complaints, Singh said, according to PTI.
“The ministry, including the Indian Missions or posts, have assisted the Indian women distressed by NRI spouses by way of providing them counselling, guidance and information about procedures, mechanisms for serving judicial summons on the overseas Indian husband,” Singh said.
He added that assistance was provided to the distressed women to file a case in India, and lookout notices were issued, and Indian passports of the husbands were impounded or revoked when required. The women are also offered help in getting access to lawyers and NGOs empanelled with Indian missions for getting legal and financial assistance under the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF).
While answering another question about whether the government is proposing to bring a law enabling it to cancel the passports of NRI husbands who abandon their wives, Singh had said in a written reply earlier this month that the government had set up an Expert Committee on NRI Marital disputes, which presented its Report in August 2017.
“Some of its recommendations including constitution of an Integrated Nodal Agency (INA) have been accepted and implemented and some are under further examination,” Singh said. He added that the INA is expected to be an effective mechanism to provide a single window timely solution to the problems of affected women and that there would be better monitoring of the welfare measures being undertaken in this regard.
Regarding cancellation of passports of NRI husbands who desert their wives, Singh said that it can take place only based on legal orders from court and hence suitable counselling and advice for same is given through the INA mechanism.
According to Singh, the amount for legal and financial assistance to distressed Indian women has also been increased to $4,000 per case.
The rise in the number of NRI wives in distress has prompted the government to take several steps. The central government had suggested key changes in the code of criminal procedure (CrPC), seeking to declare NRI husbands who desert their wives in India and don’t respond to court summons in the case thrice as “absconders.” Properties belonging to these people as well as their families will be confiscated as per the proposal, Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister Maneka Gandhi said on Feb. 12.
In another step taken by the government, registrars from all the states across India will now have to upload details associated with NRI marriages on the new website that the Ministry for Women and Child Development is setting up. The move is aimed at tackling the issue of NRI husbands abandoning or ill-treating their wives.