India's plan to feed the poor: Cut out the lavish weddings
A government minister wants to limit wasteful marriage feasts — common throughout India — to save more food for citizens mired in poverty
A growing food crisis has spurred the Indian government to consider restricting lavish weddings. In India, even less well-off families will save for years to pay for blowout bashes that typically go on for days and, according to Food and Consumer Affairs Minister K.V. Thomas, inevitably involve a "criminal wastage" of food. Here's a guide to the government's proposal:
What sort of wedding restrictions are we talking about?Though plans are still in the very early stages, Thomas could reintroduce India's "Guest Control Order" of the 1960s, which limited the number of people allowed at weddings and other functions. The government has also asked farm scientists to propose ways to reduce food waste and may launch an awareness campaign to encourage people to initiate their own cut-backs.
Are these austerity measures necessary?India's economy has been growing rapidly, but the hundreds of millions of Indians still living in poverty have been hit hard by soaring prices for flour and other basics — food inflation topped 18 percent in December, says Jonathon Burch at Reuters. About half of Indian children under age 5 are malnourished. "We believe we can preserve food grains for the poor," the consumer affairs minister says, "by restricting its use at such extravagant and luxurious social functions."
Are Indian weddings really that wasteful?Yes, especially among familes eager to show off their growing prosperity. For the wealthy, "top chefs flown in from New York or Tokyo and festivities spread across multiple cities have become almost commonplace," says Jason Burke in The Guardian. Even middle-class festivities often feature international cuisine. "It's true that people waste a lot," says wedding planner Neeti Bhargava, as quoted in The Guardian, who notes that weddings typically offer an excessive range of dishes for guests to sample in small quantities.
Will India accept these restrictions?Opponents are "livid," says A M Jigeesh in India Today. An opposition party spokesman, as quoted in India Today, says this "absurd and obnoxious proposal" wouldn't even effectively eliminate waste.
So this plan wouldn't work?It's "highly doubtful" that cutting back on extravagant weddings "would do much to improve food wastage," says Tripti Lahiri in The Wall Street Journal. The truth is, "a lot more food gets wasted in storehouses or in transit to market, where it often rots." And cutting back on lavish weddings would have negative economic effects. "What about all the bands, flower growers, caterers, tent-wallas, power-generator providers and sundry others who depend on the wedding economy?"