Weddings to wine, winds of social change blowing through punjab villages

By Harpreet Bajwa| Published: 30th October 2016 08:49 AM
Villagers teach school students the importance of not giving or taking dowry

CHANDIGARH: Change is wafting through villages in Punjab with its inhabitants getting rid of some social evils predominant for centuries.

The state, known for its big fat weddings, is drowning in its own extravagance. People are taking loans to outdo each others’ weddings, landing in a vicious circle of debt. In many cases, they commit suicide after losing their lands and homes to moneylenders.

To put an end to the extravaganza and the debt circle, panchayats of 40 villages in Sangrur District met a few days ago at a gurdwara in Khanori village and pledged that they will not give or take a single rupee in dowry. It was also decided that the last rites of a deceased will be conducted in a simple manner.

Five youth volunteers from each village will try to convince villagers not to give or take dowry.

“We decided not to spend lavishly on marriages and funerals as most people are hardly able to make ends meet. They take huge loans for their childrens’ weddings and are never able to repay their debts,” says Baljeet Singh Virk, a small-time businessman who is leading the youth in this endeavor.

“We have drafted a charter as per which the marriage party will not exceed 31 people, no dowry will be given, non-vegetarian food and liquor won’t be served, no DJ will be hired and only traditional folk songs will be played. Relatives will not give expensive gifts such as gold and diamond sets, clothes and white goods,’’ says Virk. “As they do in Pakistan at weddings, only one sweet dish will be served and weddings will be held in community centres, not in palatial venues.”

He adds that after the Assembly elections in January-February 2017, they will write to the state government to pass a law in this regard. “We are visiting colleges and schools and asking youngsters to change their mindsets and convince their parents for the same,’’ says Virk.
Pavitar Singh, who is spearheading the movement, says, “We will slowly reach every village in the state as after marriage, wives are harassed for dowry and this has to stop.’’
A few hundred kilometres away in Aboha town in Fazilka District, another movement is picking up. Kaushalya Devi, mother of Bhim Tak who was killed by the liquor mafia last year, has convinced 186 panchayats to make their villages liquor-free.

“This movement is not just mine but of every mother and family who have lost their sons to the liquor mafia,” says Kaushalya Devi.

Convener of the movement, Gopi Chand, says, “It is not just stopping the opening of legal liquor vends in villages. They should be at a distance from villages. We also want to stop manufacturing of illegal liquor.’’
Panchayats of 13 villages in Barnala District have ensured liquor vends are not allowed in their villages and 48 other panchayats across the state have asked the state government to ban liquor vends in their villages. The main role in this regard has been played by women. Also, 16 NGOs have formed an umbrella body to fight for liquor-free villages.

Moving Move

Villagers of 40 villages in Sangrur District will not give or take dowry

The last rites of a deceased will be conducted in a simple manner

Five youth volunteers from each village will convince villagers not to give or take dowry

Mother of a slain anti-liquor crusader has convinced 186 villages to be liquor-free

13 villages in Barnala District disallowed liquor vends

48 panchayats have asked for a ban on liquor vends in their villages

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