As far as wedding presents go, this is as bizarre as it gets.
Madhya Pradesh’s panchayat and rural development minister Gopal Bhargava has presented washing bats to newly-wed women, asking them to put the wooden plank to “good use” if their husbands come home drunk.
“If your husband or any other member of family comes home drunk, treat him with it,” he said, addressing brides-to-be at a mass-marriage ceremony he hosted in his hometown of Garhakota on Saturday.
Across Madhya Pradesh such weddings were organised on Akshay Tritiya, an auspicious day for Hindus and Jains, on Saturday. The state’s backward and parched region of Bundelkhand, where women are campaigning against liquor, too, saw such marriages.
Bhargava presented some household items to the couples to help them set up home. The gift basket had a special present for the bride – a message scribbled washing bat.
“Sharabiyon ke sutara hetu bhent (a gift to keep drunks in check),” reads a message printed in bold blue.
The minister seems to have thought things through. Putting to rest fears of punishment for use of violence, the message on the reverse side in red assures, “Police nahi bolegi (Police will not say anything)”.
He asked the women to check brewing of illicit liquor in their areas and asked them to use bats if they failed to get help from officials.
The minister’s message seemed to have hit home.
“I am happy that the minister thinks of empowering women against ill effects of liquor. In many villages, husbands beat up their wives when drunk and ruin their family life,” Hari Bai, one of the brides, said.
Grooms, too, swore off liquor and other intoxications.
There is a political message as well.
The minister’s son, Abhishek, has been at the forefront of an anti-liquor campaign in Bundelkhand, much to the discomfort of the state government.
He has demanded a complete ban on liquor in the state. In the last one month, Bundelkhand has seen several demonstrations, mostly led by women protesting against the shifting of liquor vends from national and state highways and banks of the Narmada river to residential areas.
Liquor is one of the biggest sources of revenue but some states have banned or restricted its sale.
The Supreme Court has banned liquor vends within 500 metres of national and state highways to prevent drink driving. Several states have renamed roads to circumvent the top court order that aims to make India’s notoriously accident prone roads safe. –Hindustan Times