The Big Story: Big Lean Indian Wedding
Planning a destination wedding to the Maldives? Want a sushi counter and a French patisserie next to the Belgian chocolate fountain, the chaat stall and the the biryani bar? Thinking of Honey Singh for the sangeet? Wondering if the freshly imported Swiss swans would get a bit hot in this weather? You may wrap these thoughts up in tissue and put them away along with that Tarun Tahiliani lehenga.
The Marriages (Compulsory Registration and Prevention of Wasteful Expenditure) Bill, 2016, will put an end to all that. Introduced in the Lok Sabha by a Congress member of Parliament, it could be taken up as a private member’s bill in the next session. The bill seeks to cap the number of guests invited and dishes served. Weddings that cost above Rs 5 lakh must declare the amount and donate 10% of it to a welfare fund set up by the government and used to help poor families pay for their daughters’ weddings. Now, this bill may have been motivated by good taste or egalitarian instincts, both perfectly sound concerns. But there could be a catch or two in it.
It is not that we are complaining about the state getting in our business. In the last few months, it has decided how much cash we should have and wants to know all our private details before it hands out food subsidies, lets us write examinations and even own a mobile phone. So it might as well play wedding planner too. The concern here is mainly economic.
The big fat Indian wedding is a $40 billion industry. It has held steady in the face of economic downturns. It has given rise to cheery articles telling you not to worry, you can still have a great wedding for just Rs 10 lakh. The growing scale of these extravaganzas has also created thousands of livelihoods: think of the armies of make-up artists, decorators, caterers and florists quietly labouring away behind the scenes. These weddings have also fuelled the great Indian start-up, with wedding planning businesses mushrooming overnight.
Besides, what of Bollywood? Who is going to steal the bride from the wedding mandap that does not look like a palace? Where are the old college friends going to meet after years if not at a wedding in a fabulous Rajasthani fort? And everybody knows the end to a good romance is a big fat Indian wedding. This bill could single-handedly demolish the plots of thousands of Bollywood movies. Besides, what of struggling stars earning an extra buck or two by dancing at sangeets? Never mind anti-industry, this bill is anti-joy.
The Big Scroll
Mrinal Pande writes on how weddings in Kumaon brought ritual cash to many pockets.
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Namrata Acharya on why Kolkata is a hub for “paper companies”:
“’Almost 90% of shell companies are in Kolkata,’ said a senior I-T official. ‘Hence, it will be a major activity centre for the government’s planned crackdown on such companies.’
The reason why Kolkata is the preferred choice of venue is said to be easy availability of professionals in this type of activity, with an established network.
‘The effective tax rate is around 24%,’ said an official. ‘Hence, for earned capital of Rs 1 crore, one pays Rs 24 lakh as tax. In Kolkata, one pays Rs 50,000-Rs 70,000 to the entry operator to form a shell company through a structured transaction and save on taxes.’”