In a shocking development, a Maharashtra government approved textbook for class 12 suggests that ugly or handicapped girls are the reason for the social evil of dowry in the country.

The reasoning appears in the textbook of Sociology under the title, "Major Social Problems in India" prescribed for Class 12 students in the state.

Under sub-heading No 12 titled 'Ugliness', the paragraph proclaims: "If girl is ugly and handicapped then it becomes very difficult for her to get married. To marry such girls, the bridegroom and his family demand more dowry. Parents of such girls become helpless and pay dowry as per the demands of the bridegroom's family. It leads to rise in the practice of dowry system."

Following a furore over the passage in question, Education Minister Vinod Tawde said he had discussed the matter with the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Chairman Gangadhar Mhamane.

Surprisingly, the Minister argued that the issue was nothing new and is being taught to the Class 12 students since the past three years.

He, however, appealed to all to "keep politics out of education", while the matter was being tackled.

Besides "ugliness" and "handicap" for a marriageable girl, the chapter has listed other factors like religion, caste system, social prestige and compensation principle, and said that "generally all people give and take dowry".

Tawde added that the matter found "objectionable" would be placed before the concerned Board of Studies – which designs and approves the course syllabus – for its report.

After getting the report, the government will consider the next step in the issue, he said.

Education Department officials, preferring anonymity, could not confirm off-hand if the offensive paragraphs also appear in any other languages in which the Sociology subject textbook is prescribed.