Under pressure of religious & social groups, J&K govt imposes restrictions on weddings

Just a couple of days back, Congress MP Ms Ranjeet Ranjan introduced a bill in the Parliament which sought to curtail the so called extravaganza in Indian weddings. The current BJP-PDP government now seems to have taken this a step further. They have imposed harsh austerity measures to be applied on weddings, engagements and social functions. The measures would come to effect from 1st April 2017.

In a order [pdf link] dated 20th Feb 2017, the Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs J&K had declared that:

  1. There would be a complete ban on sending dry fruits/sweets with invitation cards
  2. Complete ban on loudspeakers/amplifiers/fire crackers which create sound beyond human capacity of hearing
  3. The Number of guests invited for marriage of daughter, son and engagement would be 500, 400 and 100 respectively
  4. The number of dishes would be restricted to 7 and two stalls for sweet or fruits
  5. There shouldn’t be any wastage of food(cooked or uncooked) and if there’s some surplus it should be given to deserving/old people
  6. Plastic should be disposed off properly

In a statement released by the government, it has justified that these restrictions are imposed for the following reasons:

  1. The department has received complaints against extravagant expenditures in public and private parties
  2. The generators, lights, crackers make a lot of noise, air, soil and water pollution
  3. Organizing these big gatherings cause the road to get blocked due to wrong parking of vehicles by visitors
  4. High pitch music causes a lot of trouble for old, sick people and students
  5. The extravagant arrangements ensure a use of high amount of essential commodities like meat, Aata, Rice, Vegetables which increases their cost and also creates a social divide and hampers the weaker section of the society.
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The increasing interference of the state in private lives of its citizens is dangerous. In the times when people across India are aggressively debating about freedom of the citizens, such rules will set wrong precedents. By imposing such restrictions, Jammu and Kashmir — a state which remains controversial land for civil rights — will further aggravate the situation.

A government dictating what should one gift, how many stalls one should install, how much sweets one should serve is didactic and silly. Apart from that, it will also impact the local economy of Kashmir. Kashmiris involved in the business of dry fruits, sweets, saffron will be adversely impacted.

If the government wants to check food wastage or pollution it should support initiatives and campaign which can help people to imbibe healthy habits rather than by imposing government diktats. Various forms of pollution and traffic jams can also be tackled by systematic planning, well defined rules and steep fines. Such moral and frugal restrictions may help for short-term, but in longer course of time it will introduce corruption, fraudulence and police raj. People are already concerned that it will give another opportunity to police to take undue advantages from citizens.

As reported, the Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Minister Zulfikar Ali has stated that religious and social groups had been pressing for such curbs for a long time. This whole affair raises two serious questions:

  1. Is the BJP-PDP government government buckling under the pressure of religious and social groups in the state?
  2. Will such policies motivate other states to follow similar trend where the government will dictate lifestyle of people under the garb of social justice and equality?

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