Three-thousand poor couples in Maharashtra get ‘royal wedding’

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PUNE: Swapnil Sable and his wife Tejal are happy that they could save a few lakhs of rupees by tying the knot at a ‘mass wedding’ instead of throwing a private lavish celebration.
Both Sable and his wife come from poor farming families. They are happy that they had a “big, royal mass wedding”. They are among the over 3,000 couples from across Maharashtra who tied the knot at mass weddings organised earlier this month at several places in the state, under an initiative taken by Charity Commissioner Shivkumar Dige. Last month, Dige appealed to local religious institutions and trusts in the state to utilise their spare funds to arrange mass weddings in their respective areas, especially for the daughters and sons of farmers and farm labourers.
In response to the appeal, several religious trusts, social organisations and individuals loosened their purse strings to fund marriages of over 3,000 couples across the state, he said. “The religious trusts and institutions were urged to fund the mass weddings in view of the agrarian distress. The number of farmer suicides is high in the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions,” Dige said. In many cases, the expenditure on daughter’s wedding becomes a major reason for a farmer’s indebtedness, which at times leads to suicides, he noted.
“We set up district-wise committees to execute the plan and spread the word about mass weddings among the public. Following the initiative taken last month, over 3,000 couples belonging to different religions and castes have had grand weddings so far,” he said. Sable, who tied the knot at a mass wedding event in Mumbai on May 13, said his family has a small farm in the neighbouring Palghar district. But, he works in a private firm where he earns a meagre salary. His wife’s father is also a farmer.
“When our marriage was fixed, the main issue for both the families was how to raise funds for the function. When we heard about the mass wedding in Mumbai, we decided to enrol in it to save money for our future…and now we are a happy couple,” he said. More than 95 couples from the Wada tehsil in Palghar district tied the knot at the mass wedding in Mumbai in the presence of their family members and relatives, he said.
Sable said they were pleasantly surprised when some prominent personalities attended the ceremony.
Union minister Ramdas Athawale and Maharashtra minister Subhash Desai blessed the couples at the mass wedding event in Mumbai, Dige said. Pune division’s deputy charity commissioner Navnath Jagtap said 18 couples from a tribal area near Khed tehsil in the district tied the knot at one such mass wedding on May 14. “The S MSupeFoundation, which works for the welfare of tribals in the Khed region, took the lead and helped 18 couples from a small hamlet to tie the knot,” he said.
Santosh Supe, the foundation’s president, said a famous jeweller in Pune offered ‘mangalsutras’ (sacred necklace worn by married women) free of costto the 18 brides. “Even the clothes and shoes for grooms and the bridal outfits were arranged from various sources. Some individuals also chipped-in to take care of the catering, decorations and the music bands,” he said. Pradip Rathi, one of the trustees of the Ashtvinayak Trust in Latur district, shared a similar story.