Many Indian parents look for a foreign match for their daughters but here's a reason to be wary.
On average, at least one woman married to an NRI calls home every eight hours seeking help to return after being deserted by her husband or because of reasons like ill-treatment and physical torture.
Complaints received by the ministry of external affairs (MEA) show that in the 1,064 days between January 1, 2015 and November 30, 2017, the MEA received 3,328 such complaints — an average of more than three calls a day or one every eight hours.
Most of the women are originally from Punjab and Andhra-Telangana followed by Gujarat, say lawyers, activists and people working in Indian missions abroad. The National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development, in its study on deserted women some years ago, also confirms this fact.
'Most dowry complaints from Andhra-Telangana'
Aarthi Rao worked with the Indian embassy in Washington DC for 16 years, six of which were as a community development officer dealing with such cases.
"Most women," she said "were from Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana), where the dowry system is still strong. The boys went to India to please their parents and married someone, but had no intentions of living with them once they returned."
Aarthi, who later served as adviser to the MEA, said she received a lot of complaints from West Asian countries during her Delhi stint.
In one complaint that the MEA received, Shazia (name changed) said she was stuck in Bahrain as her husband had destroyed her visa document and was preventing her from making calls.
The erstwhile Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry, now merged with MEA, had introduced a scheme for such women in 2007. The MEA now addresses the issue through its grievance redressal portal, MADAD. Besides, all missions also receive complaints from women and help them both financially and legally.
Not all complaints go to the ministry. Chennai-based lawyer Sudha Ramalingam says the majority are from West Asian countries, the US and Canada. "Just six weeks ago, there was a man working with Qatar Airlines harassing his wife. She reached out to me after great difficulty and we've just managed to get her separated from her husband," she said.
While Ramalingam said there was "no one solution" to the problem, sociologist Samata Deshmane attributed it to Indian parents' "obsession" with acertain status associated with NRI grooms.