Donald Trump’s election as the President of the United States last year has led to a significant, and perhaps unforeseen, shift in the marriage market in India.
Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, his dramatic executive order on immigration in January (which was later stayed by a federal court) and a proposal to squeeze H1B work visa programmes that are used extensively by Indians has meant that young Indian men studying and working in the US are no longer in demand in marriage bureaus in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
US-based Indian men have been one of the most sought after grooms in the country for decades. Although no data is available to ascertain the extent of the decline in the demand for such grooms yet, the attack on two Indian engineers in Kansas last week, in which one was killed, is likely to accelerate the trend.
Telugus form a large number of Indians migrating to the US annually. Several of them go to the US as students. Data released by the US Embassy in India shows that its Hyderabad consulate issues the highest number of student visas in the country, and the fifth highest in the world.
“Trump’s [immigration clamp down] decision has not only affected the job security of Indian techies working in the US, it has also affected the marriage of NRI [Non-Resident Indian] grooms,” said Dayakar*, the managing director of a marriage bureau in software-technology hub Hyderabad. “At present, parents of girls prefer grooms from software companies based in India over NRIs, which used to be the other way round till just a few months back.”
Dayakar added that parents who were looking for Non-Resident Indian grooms for their daughters were waiting to see which direction Trump’s immigration policies for Indians would take before they committed to a match. “Until then they have kept NRI matches on hold,” he said.
Parents looking elsewhere
Parents looking for grooms for their daughters admitted to the shift.
“I used to search for NRI matches [in the US], but I rejected 10 such matches after Trump’s rule,” said Hyderabad-based Subramanyam Sharma, who has a 25-year-old daughter. He added that he has also advised his extended family not to look for Indian grooms in America for their daughters as long as Trump was President.
Similarly, like many other Indian parents, Ravi Reddy, 55, has been looking at eligible Indian men working in the US for his daughter, an information technology engineer. Now he says he’s dropped the US from his list because of Trump. “I would prefer to give my daughter to grooms from any other place like Singapore, Australia – anywhere other than the US,” said Reddy, who has been groom-hunting since 2015.
Ditto with Purnachandra Rao, from Hyderabad, who has a 22-year-old daughter. The lure of the Non-Resident Indian groom in the US is over, he said. “NRIs in USA don’t have job security now,” said Rao. “After marriage they won’t be able to take my daughter along with them because of the rules laid down by Trump. So what is the point in getting married to a groom working there?”
Neelima*, who manages a prominent marriage bureau in Hyderabad, said the Trump factor could delay marriages that were already delayed by Indian standards in the case of Non-Resident Indians. “Normally NRIs marry very late,” she said. “On average, the minimum age of the NRI who is ready for marriage will be around 30 years. It takes another one or two years by the time they get married. Because of this effect [Trump’s anti-immigrant policies] it will get even more delayed.”
Wait and watch?
In the US, eligible young Indian men are putting on a brave face.
Chalapathi Rao, 30, who has been employed with the US government’s Health Department for the past five years, has been searching for a “well-educated bride” for the past six months. Although there was initial interest, the responses have dwindled.
However, Rao said that he is not worried. “I have a Greencard and work permit and I am employed with the US government,” he said. “So there is no problem for me with regard to working in the US. My job is secure and there is no need to worry.”
* Last names of some employees of marriage bureaus have been withheld on request.
India’s urban water crisis calls for an integrated approach
We need solutions that address different aspects of the water eco-system and
involve the collective participation of citizens and other stake-holders.
According to a UN report, around 1.2 billion people, or almost one fifth of the world’s population, live in areas where water is physically scarce and another 1.6 billion people, or nearly one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage. They lack basic access to water. The criticality of the water situation across the world has in fact given rise to speculations over water wars becoming a distinct possibility in the future. In India the problem is compounded, given the rising population and urbanization. The Asian Development Bank has forecast that by 2030, India will have a water deficit of 50%.
Water challenges in urban India
For urban India, the situation is critical. In 2015, about 377 million Indians lived in urban areas and by 2030, the urban population is expected to rise to 590 million. Already, according to the National Sample Survey, only 47% of urban households have individual water connections and about 40% to 50% of water is reportedly lost in distribution systems due to various reasons. Further, as per the 2011 census, only 32.7% of urban Indian households are connected to a piped sewerage system.
Any comprehensive solution to address the water problem in urban India needs to take into account the specific challenges around water management and distribution:
Pressure on water sources: Rising demand on water means rising pressure on water sources, especially in cities. In a city like Mumbai for example, 3,750 Million Litres per Day (MLD) of water, including water for commercial and industrial use, is available, whereas 4,500 MLD is needed. The primary sources of water for cities like Mumbai are lakes created by dams across rivers near the city. Distributing the available water means providing 386,971 connections to the city’s roughly 13 million residents. When distribution becomes challenging, the workaround is to tap ground water. According to a study by the Centre for Science and Environment, 48% of urban water supply in India comes from ground water. Ground water exploitation for commercial and domestic use in most cities is leading to reduction in ground water level.
Distribution and water loss issues: Distribution challenges, such as water loss due to theft, pilferage, leaky pipes and faulty meter readings, result in unequal and unregulated distribution of water. In New Delhi, for example, water distribution loss was reported to be about 40% as per a study. In Mumbai, where most residents get only 2-5 hours of water supply per day, the non-revenue water loss is about 27% of the overall water supply. This strains the municipal body’s budget and impacts the improvement of distribution infrastructure. Factors such as difficult terrain and legal issues over buildings also affect water supply to many parts. According to a study, only 5% of piped water reaches slum areas in 42 Indian cities, including New Delhi. A 2011 study also found that 95% of households in slum areas in Mumbai’s Kaula Bunder district, in some seasons, use less than the WHO-recommended minimum of 50 litres per capita per day.
Water pollution and contamination: In India,almost400,000childrendie every year of diarrhea, primarily due to contaminated water. According to a 2017 report, 630 million people in the South East Asian countries, including India, use faeces-contaminated drinking water source, becoming susceptible to a range of diseases. Industrial waste is also a major cause for water contamination, particularly antibiotic ingredients released into rivers and soils by pharma companies. A Guardian report talks about pollution from drug companies, particularly those in India and China, resulting in the creation of drug-resistant superbugs. The report cites a study which indicates that by 2050, the total death toll worldwide due to infection by drug resistant bacteria could reach 10 million people.
A holistic approach to tackling water challenges
Addressing these challenges and improving access to clean water for all needs a combination of short-term and medium-term solutions. It also means involving the community and various stakeholders in implementing the solutions. This is the crux of the recommendations put forth by BASF.
The proposed solutions, based on a study of water issues in cities such as Mumbai, take into account different aspects of water management and distribution. Backed by a close understanding of the cost implications, they can make a difference in tackling urban water challenges. These solutions include:
Recycling and harvesting: Raw sewage water which is dumped into oceans damages the coastal eco-system. Instead, this could be used as a cheaper alternative to fresh water for industrial purposes. According to a 2011 World Bank report, 13% of total freshwater withdrawal in India is for industrial use. What’s more, the industrial demand for water is expected to grow at a rate of 4.2% per year till 2025. Much of this demand can be met by recycling and treating sewage water. In Mumbai for example, 3000 MLD of sewage water is released, almost 80% of fresh water availability. This can be purified and utilised for industrial needs. An example of recycled sewage water being used for industrial purpose is the 30 MLD waste water treatment facility at Gandhinagar and Anjar in Gujarat set up by Welspun India Ltd.
Another example is the proposal by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) to recycle and reclaim sewage water treated at its existing facilities to meet the secondary purposes of both industries and residential complexes. In fact, residential complexes can similarly recycle and re-use their waste water for secondary purposes such as gardening.
Also, alternative rain water harvesting methods such as harvesting rain water from concrete surfaces using porous concrete can be used to supplement roof-top rain water harvesting, to help replenish ground water.
Community initiatives to supplement regular water supply: Initiatives such as community water storage and decentralised treatment facilities, including elevated water towers or reservoirs and water ATMs, based on a realistic understanding of the costs involved, can help support the city’s water distribution. Water towers or elevated reservoirs with onsite filters can also help optimise the space available for water distribution in congested cities. Water ATMs, which are automated water dispensing units that can be accessed with a smart card or an app, can ensure metered supply of safe water.
Testing and purification: With water contamination being a big challenge, the adoption of affordable and reliable multi-household water filter systems which are electricity free and easy to use can help, to some extent, access to safe drinking water at a domestic level. Also, the use of household water testing kits and the installation of water quality sensors on pipes, that send out alerts on water contamination, can create awareness of water contamination and drive suitable preventive steps.
Public awareness and use of technology: Public awareness campaigns, tax incentives for water conservation and the use of technology interfaces can also go a long way in addressing the water problem. For example, measures such as water credits can be introduced with tax benefits as incentives for efficient use and recycling of water. Similarly, government water apps, like that of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, can be used to spread tips on water saving, report leakage or send updates on water quality.
Collaborative approach: Finally, a collaborative approach like the adoption of a public-private partnership model for water projects can help. There are already examples of best practices here. For example, in Netherlands, water companies are incorporated as private companies, with the local and national governments being majority shareholders. Involving citizens through social business models for decentralised water supply, treatment or storage installations like water ATMs, as also the appointment of water guardians who can report on various aspects of water supply and usage can help in efficient water management. Grass-root level organizations could be partnered with for programmes to spread awareness on water safety and conservation.
For BASF, the proposed solutions are an extension of their close engagement with developing water management and water treatment solutions. The products developed specially for waste and drinking water treatment, such as Zetag® ULTRA and Magnafloc® LT, focus on ensuring sustainability, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the water and sludge treatment process.
BASF is also associated with operations of Reliance Industries’ desalination plant at Jamnagar in Gujarat.The thermal plant is designed to deliver up to 170,000 cubic meters of processed water per day. The use of inge® ultrafiltration technologies allows a continuous delivery of pre-filtered water at a consistent high-quality level, while the dosage of the Sokalan® PM 15 I protects the desalination plant from scaling. This combination of BASF’s expertise minimises the energy footprint of the plant and secures water supply independent of the seasonal fluctuations. To know more about BASF’s range of sustainable solutions and innovative chemical products for the water industry, see here.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.