In foreign crazy Punjab, getting married to a nonresident Indian (NRI) is perhaps one of the easiest ways to go abroad. This explains the craze to find an NRI groom for a girl in Punjab.

Many a times, however, marrying an NRI turns out to be the biggest mistake for women in the state as the trend of grooms abandoning their wives has also picked up over the years.

However, as there has been clamour for action against such grooms or even brides in some cases, the government appears to have finally started to act in such cases by suspending the passports of such NRIs and preparing the ground for their deportation.

In the past three months, the Regional Passport Office (RPO), Chandigarh has suspended about 50 passports and many more are apparently in line for the same. In order to make sure NRIs are sent back to India for facing criminal cases, RPO Chandigarh is writing to the Embassies and even informing the employers of such NRIs about the suspension of their passports.

The credit for this goes to a group of women abandoned by NRIs. In order to fight the injustice, they joined hands to fight for their rights and moved applications with the authorities demanding cancellation of the passports of their husbands.

As a result, the regional passport authorities have been receiving several applications from deserted women seeking intervention against their NRI husbands. In some cases, even men have been duped by NRI women on the promise of securing them a good life in a foreign country for a price.

As per Punjab State Commission for Women, over 30,000 legal cases pertaining to NRIs from the state abandoning their wives are pending for disposal. Abandoned by NRI husbands, such women are known as “honeymoon brides” as they have not seen their husbands after the wedding called “holiday marriages” as many NRIs are known to marry in India during a holiday under family pressure or just for pleasure.

The commission has been urging the Centre to enact deterrent laws to curb the menace. Commission chairperson Manisha Gulati had recently met Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi and raised the issue of the plight of such women who had “suffered due to betrayal and exploitation by NRI grooms”. “More than 30,000 legal cases are pending in Punjab alone, in which NRIs presumably abandoned their wives. These exploited women need help immediately.

If the preliminary inquiry in India reveals that the NRI concerned is within the ambit of conviction, then his extradition process should be initiated immediately and his passport confiscated till he compensates his aggrieved wife This bold decision will help save many lives in India, particularly in Punjab, and alert other NRIs who want to twist the law for their vested interest without fearing its consequences,” Gulati told The Statesman.

”The present and previous governments passed laws to protect women from exploitation by NRI grooms but somehow this exploitation hasn’t been curtailed,” she added. Gulati said dubious NRIs often promise the moon at the time of marriage and later cite lengthy documentation processes to leave behind the newlywed wife.

Once they reach the overseas destination, they remain inaccessible. She said the Women and Child Development ministry has started an online portal for registration of such marriages, and if they are not done within the stipulated time, the passports and visas would not be issued to the people involved. Another proposal is holding the properties of NRI offenders in escrow, in case they abscond abandoning their spouse.

Escrow is a legal concept in which a financial instrument or an asset is held by a third party on behalf of two other parties that are in the process of completing a transaction. The chairperson said such action was required in view of the plight Indian women suffer due to betrayals and exploitation by NRI grooms who abandon their newly-wed brides and escape abroad within days or months after marriage in some cases.