RTI gets reduced to marriage bureau as families seek info on prospective brides, grooms

More than 100 people have tested positive in Paliganj. Representational image: iStock

Ram Shankar Sharma is quite worried about the fate of his graduate daughter, given the recent spurt in cases of bride families being duped by the groom’s side over fake claims about their position and salary.

So, instead of depending on information from local contacts, he has taken the Right to Information (RTI) route to get information about a prospective groom employed as a teacher in a government school in Bihar.

“Has the youth been appointed on a contractual basis or is his job permanent? What’s his current take-home salary? Is he entitled to a salary hike in future? And what are his education qualifications?” Sharma has sought all these details through an RTI petition filed with the Education Department, Patna.

Sharma, a resident of Bhagalpur town in eastern Bihar, is not alone. There are many like him who have asked similar questions to the departments concerned through the easiest route of RTI petitions to ensure that their daughters are married to the right people and that their married lives remained safe.

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Sounds strange but it’s a fact that the RTI, which was once a powerful tool for India’s civil society to fight corruption, currently finds itself virtually getting reduced to a “marriage bureau,” fixing weddings.

Also read: SC directs RBI to disclose information on bank inspection report under RTI

Believe it or not, the villagers are frequently using the landmark Right to Information Act to seek “correct and authentic” details about prospective grooms so that they could marry their daughters to the “right” person.

What makes their task easier is that the law demands them to pay a fee of only ₹10 in lieu of any information from government bodies.

So, anyone who wants information on youths in government jobs for matrimonial purposes simply reaches out to the RTI offices instead of depending on other sources.

Shiv Balak Yadav of Aurangabad, Dhanpat Rai of Saran, and Satpal Singh of Bhojpur district too have done the same thing to get such information. Yadav wants to know about the conduct of a boy employed with the Public Health and Engineering Department. Rai wants to know the salary details of a youth who works as an accounts officer in a college under Jai Prakash University. Singh wants to know the exact take-home salary of a youth before he starts wedding talks for his daughter.

The oft-asked questions from the applicants are on job stability, salary package qualifications, designation, and place of posting.

“We, of late, have been flooded with such petitions seeking personal information. We don’t know for what purpose they are seeking details but seeking information is their right and we can’t say no,” said public information officer Ranjit Kumar Verma based in Patna.

Also read: Ministries of Tribal, Home Affairs rejected most RTI applications: CIC report

According to him, most applicants want information on the salary details of the newly appointed employees.

“Obviously, they want to be fully sure of the prospective grooms they might be looking for their daughters or sisters to avoid any problems in future,” Verma added.

The groom side too is not very far behind in seeking such information about the status of the would-be brides and have been filing RTI petitions to seek details.

“Initially, we got petitions related mainly to development projects, funds, and expenditure but now this new trend is setting in. Quite a lot of applications are of a personal nature, apparently filed for matrimonial purposes. Yet, we can’t say no. Everyone holds the right to seek information by paying the required fees,” said public information officer Manendra Kumar Singh, posted in Bhojpur district.

Officials said the trend had set in following the growing number of frauds in which youths secured huge dowries after presenting false or hyped job and salary claims.

“Once bitten, twice shy and that’s the reason people have been seeking such information,” said RTI activist Shiv Prakash Rai.

The families want to know the exact salary and status of the groom so that they could pay the ‘commensurate’ dowry. “It is true that the RTI has lost its real purpose in recent months but this is also good to know that RTI is proving to be a great tool to fight cases of matrimonial frauds,” Rai remarked.

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