Dowry has become one of the greatest evils in the country. Formerly it was prevalent among the royal families. Sometimes it had political significance too. A portion of the kingdom was bestowed upon the bridegroom to cement the relations. Gradually it became a custom among the rich. With the growth of caste system it took another turn. In some of the rich communities like Agrawals in the North and Reddys in the South it became an essential frivolous part of the marriage. Cash and presentation articles worth lakhs of rupees are offered and demanded in these communities. Since it has become an essential custom in these communities even the poor have to arrange huge sums if they have to marry their daughters and sisters.
Gradually the custom of dowry has crossed the caste barrier and has spread in the whole society. Although there is a strict law against dowry, it is not implemented in the same way as the law against child marriage is not implemented. In 1987 goods worth crores of rupees were given as dowry by a minister of the ruling party to the bridegroom, the son of an ex-minister. Both belong to the princely families. If laws are ignored by ministers they are ignored by the people too.
The cruelest aspect of dowry system is that if a girl brings fewer dowries she is harassed in her in-law’s family. Sometimes she is burnt too. Many commit suicide. Three girls in Kanpur and three in Delhi hanged themselves for this very reason. There is an average of a dowry death a day in Delhi alone. Such deaths in the rural area are never reported.
One of the worst parts of this custom is that many honest people become corrupt to earn money to marry their daughters. They take bribe, do tuitions and practice unfair means in business. Taxes are not paid on this extra income. It is unaccounted money that creates inflation in the country. It is said that 50% of the black money in the North is because of dowry.
It looks rather strange that even the girls insist upon dowry. They want to maintain their prestige in their new home. Moreover they fear harassment if they bring less dowry. But the strangest thing is that education does not help in eradicating this evil custom. On the contrary the more educated a bridegroom is the higher his rate is in the marriage market.
Dowry is a black spot on the bright face of the country. It must be erased. But it cannot be done by the elderly people. Only the younger generation can do away with it with a firm determination.