Guests are invited to celebrate various ceremonies relevant to occasions; to share joyous moments. Marriage ceremonies top the list. This tradition continued eons ago with its timely modified ways of cuisine and dainties used on such invitations.
In J&K, however, the invitation regarding number of guests on marriage ceremonies and the volume of feast served thereto changed into a sort of problem, thereby followed Government interventions from time to time.
Accordingly SROs. 455 dated 11-9-1973 and 145 dated 25-5-2004 were issued under the provisions of Essential Commodities Act 1955 for what is commonly known as ‘Guest Control Order’ limiting the number of guests and the dishes to be served. Both the SROs proved still births due to public resentment besides their inherent flaws.
The latter was set aside by the Hon’ble High Court of Jammu & Kashmir in 2006 holding it violative of fundamental rights of the citizens and as such non-sustainable besides lacking in as to whether the offense is cognizable or non-cognizable, bailable/non-bailable and which one court is competent to try the offense/offender as the same was not mentioned in the policy decision.
Government, third time, came up with another order from the Department of Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs under No.39-FCS & CA of 2017 dated 21-2-2017 and prescribed the number of guests as 400 in case of bridegroom’s side and 500 including baarat for bride’s side, seven dishes each of vegetable and non-vegetable preparations, 100 persons for small functions, with ban on use of amplifiers, decks, loud speakers, bursting of crackers and direction to dispose of the plastic & the non-biodegradable material in eco-friendly manner which was to reckon from 1-4-2017.
Reportedly the order did not derive power from any law nor had it the consent, concurrence & vetting of Ministry of Law nor any rules framed for implementation alongside issuance. Interestingly the order seen as a wiper of a social evil ran overhead of the poor who felt bedeviled as the prescribed numbers were excessive for them.
Moreover, during the brief stint of implementation of the earlier orders there were complaints of misuse of powers and responsibilities by both from Government and the public.
Succeeding governments have not deviated from the path treaded upon by the predecessors the magnum-bonum of whom is flaunting through the vast pages of decades old history when people were congratulated with the gift of advent of ‘Awami Raj’.
Laden with the above fallacies quoted ibid it had some silver lining by way of banning the bursting of crackers, use of high pitch sound amplifiers/loud speakers, profuse lighting & decks.
However, with cumbrousness of number of baraties as 100, gathering of 400 guests for each of the sides, 14 dishes, seven each of vegetables /meat, more than normal on the date of issue of government order, and silence upon quantity of meat to be served was far away from the capacity of hoi-polloi for whom such rescue operations are mentioned to have been undertaken.
For crossing the thence abnormally normal, the order was felt to have an air of guest de-control as in the past serving of seven dishes was regarded as a kingly style. Now allowing officially seven more dishes was no less than hooting the idea of economy and sanctioning & boosting lavishness.
It reminds of a tale of a famine hit kingdom where people began to die from hunger. One of the subjects dared to inform the king of the calamity. The king ordered to advise the subjects reduce their dishes by one as if they were enjoying many.
The order is procrustean for the rich and abnormal for the poor because if a host has 1000 relations/neighbours/friends/acquaintances, he has to cut by 60 percent to the utter disregard & disgrace of societal connections stigmatising him as an ungrateful one.
Moreover, by limiting the number of guests to 400 for son’s marriage and 500 including 100 baaraties for daughter’s marriage, government has given nod to an army of 100 baaraties (more than normal) to flood & over-load the parental home of the bride. Religiously or by law except precedence baaraties are not entitled to be obliged as the bride does not owe them save first relatives of bridegroom.
After all a girl weds a boy not all to turn her house into a free service hotel. The number should have been between 6 and 8 people just to ensure safe and secure travel of bridegroom and the bride as was the only spirit behind this tradition.
The government has missed the thrust area. Increased number of weighty preparations of meat, vegetable dishes and the sideline additions necessitate supply of carry bags, otherwise an escapable expenditure, for holding the extra meat even after eating throat-full. Conversely there are huge left-overs of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste; trying time for municipal squads besides stinking the locality.
There arises a problem of disposal of disposables. It is excessive number/weight of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes that create the fuss and tease the pocket/eyes by way of hygienic & cost concerns.
Besides, what to talk of the strength of the administrative order, orders backed by constitutional sanctity or having the force of law buttressed by the executive machinery do not fructify unless & until good sense dawns upon people.
Guests are welcome as their number depends upon the span of dynasty and the magnitude of relationship outside. Lord & rod approach is hardly to leverage fruitfully, act of conscience can.
A better automatic control can prevail where the ameliorates may observe restrain and indigents feel no constrain to live within their own income brackets.
Moneyed may avoid pomp & show, causing emotional injury. and the opposites should not feel straitjacketed to emulate others. Minds and hearts are to be changed to voluntary follow good practice, through educational policy, print & electronic media displays supplemented by the executive machinery, civil society intervention & cooperation. Both sides should exert a self control & realise each other’s limitations and requirements. If the rich can tame their ego and tacitly help the needy many of the whines may stop.
Better save capital for investment in education than burning it in furnace for feasts. But government has to be the opener by demonstrating austerity practically in their contingent expenditure, public functions and junketing.
Pray that all marriages are celebrated in as simple a manner as possible so as not to witness or hear any dowry deaths, divorce, domestic violence, bickering, extravagance, burden of debts.
The author is a former Sr. Audit Officer and Consultant in the A.G’s Office Srinagar.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.