Maharashtra forms panel to monitor interfaith, inter-caste couples

State Minister for Women and Child Development Mangal Prabhat Lodha, who is heading the panel, said the move was aimed at avoiding a repeat of the Shraddha Walkar case.

Updated - December 15, 2022 02:42 am IST

Published - December 14, 2022 10:04 pm IST - Mumbai

Maharashtra Minister for Women and Child Development Mangal Prabhat Lodha speaks to the media in Mumbai on December 14, 2022 on the State’s move to monitor interfaith and inter-caste couples.

Maharashtra Minister for Women and Child Development Mangal Prabhat Lodha speaks to the media in Mumbai on December 14, 2022 on the State’s move to monitor interfaith and inter-caste couples.

The Maharashtra Government has constituted a 13-member committee to collect details of couples in interfaith and inter-caste marriages, and the maternal families of the women involved if they are estranged. State Minister for Women and Child Development Mangal Prabhat Lodha, who is heading the panel, said the move was aimed at avoiding a repeat of the Shraddha Walkar case.

However, the Nationalist Congress Party called it a ‘rubbish committee’ and ‘retrograde’ step and said the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis Government had no right to spy on the private life of people.

According to a Government Resolution (order), the panel will hold regular meetings with district officials and collect information on registered and unregistered interfaith and intercaste marriages.

In case of elopement, it will act as a platform for women and their family members to avail counselling and communicates or resolve the issue. It will also monitor district-level initiatives for women involved in such marriages to assist, if necessary.

Apart from holding regular meetings with district officials, the committee members from government and non-government fields will study policies at the Central and State levels regarding welfare schemes and laws related to the matter.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Lodha said the State Government’s reason behind setting up the committee was to ensure that ‘Shraddha Walkar case’ does not happen again.

“In some cases family members of the women, who get married without their acceptance, estrange. In such cases our committee members, with the help of counsellors, will get in touch with the families and counsel them to resume the contact and get them together again,” he said.

The Minister said that in Shraddha Walkar’s case, her family was not aware that she had died six months ago, which was scary. “We don’t want such incidents to happen again. Just as we counsel couples going for divorces to explore possible ways to stay together, the panel will counsel the women estranged from their families to resume contact,” he said.

NCP MLA and former Minister Jitendra Awhad took to Twitter and asked the State Government to ‘Stay away from the private life of people.

“What’s this rubbish of committee to check inter-caste/religion marriages? Who is govt to spy on who marries whom? In liberal Maharashtra this is a retrograde, nauseating step. Which way is progressive #Maharashtra heading towards. Stay away from people’s pvt life,” he tweeted.

Responding to Mr. Awhad’s comments the Minister said that the Opposition has “every right” to criticise them, but they have the responsibility to save the lives of people.

Further, Mr. Lodha said that the department will also launch a distress helpline within the next 15 days for women in interfaith and inter-caste marriages.

“They can reach out to us for any kind of help that is required, and immediate assistance will be provided,” he said.

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