“ With Rs 700 crore, 700 schools could have been built and 7000 widows of slain soldiers could have brought up their children.” These are the words of the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Mr. Satya Pal Malik, commenting on the recent ‘mother of all weddings’ of the daughter of the richest man in India. This leads us to the biggest irony. India is lagging behind most countries on major development parameters. Its Human Development Index is an abysmal 131 out of 188 nations; in Global Hunger Index, it is placed at 97 out of 118; its maternal mortality rate of 190 deaths per 100,000 live births is one of the highest in the world: its Infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births is 41.4, well behind Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
But if an index is prepared on splurging money for the so-called ‘Fat Indian Weddings’, the country might be decorated with a high ranking. The year ended with the ringing of bells for three extravagant weddings. Bollywood couple, Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh, got married in the picturesque and posh Lake Como in Italy. Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas were married over a three-day bash at Jodhpur’s Umaid Bhawan Palace. And the ‘wedding of the year’ took place when Isha Ambani, daughter of India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani and his wife Nita, got married to Anand Piramal, scion on another business group. One can only make guesses on the money splurged at the week-long functions held at the Ambanis’ 30-odd floor residence in Mumbai and at Udaipur. The who is who of Indian politics, industry and film world, apart from the ‘costliest stars’ from abroad, came in droves to attend it.
Such mammoth waste of scarce resources in a country where 15 per cent of people remain malnourished is not limited to expenditure in marriages. It extends to building worship houses, celebrating festivals and constructing statues, to name a few. It exposes the rotten mindset of leaders and their followers. It is naive to believe that God is pleased to see a magnificent abode for Him when people spend days and nights waiting for a roof over their head; it is absurd to think that leaders of yore would be delighted to see their sky-touching statutes when large sections of people are finding it difficult to make ends meet; it is equally ludicrous to believe that grandiose religious festivities will add more meaning and substance to the event.
It is time to take a re-look at the splurging of money, material and manpower. Though in a different context, the Delhi government has informed the Supreme Court that it was contemplating a policy to ‘limit’ the number of guests at ‘extravagant’ weddings and keep a tab on wastage of food at such functions. The issue revolves around an outdated outlook of the rich to flaunt their wealth. Here comes the charity works undertaken by some of the richest men and women across the world. One can see a model in the co-founder of Microsoft who spends a major part of his personal earnings for charity. It is no surprise that the only Indian among the 20 most generous people in the world is Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro. It is good to remember what the pioneering American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie said: “No man can become rich without himself enriching others.”(Published on 24th December 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 52)