Vijaya Amrute, a woman from the western Indian state of Maharashtra, and her husband, both lost their jobs amid India’s COVID-19 lockdown in March. The lockdown restrictions started easing in a phased manner from June.
To deal with the financial hardships they were facing, Amrute decided to join a marriage racket. She allegedly married three men within three months and ran away with their money and valuables.
According to local news reports, she first married a man named Yogesh Shirsath, and fled with his valuables within a fortnight. Next, she married a man named Sandeep Darade and vanished within a few days to find her third prospect. It was only when Shirsath went looking for his wife that he found out she had already married another man and duped him as well.
Shirsath registered a police complaint which led to Amrute being arrested on October 31. Upon investigation, it was revealed that she operated with the help of a matchmaking couple, who would help men find prospective brides and solemnise their marriages by charging them between INR 200,000 and 500,000 ($2760-$6676).
Marriage scams have become a common form of fraud in India. There have been at least two other reported cases of such “marriages” in the northern Indian cities of Chandigarh and Ludhiana during lockdown. In September this year, a woman identified as Monica Malik was caught after scamming eight senior citizens into marrying her and then running away with their valuables. She had been running the scam for the last ten years with the aid of a matchmaker.
Last year, a 35-year-old woman lost more INR 1 million (approx $14,688) after being duped by a man she met on Facebook, who promised to marry her and asked her to pay his mother’s hospital bill.
In another instance, a woman met a man who claimed to be a cardiologist in the UK on a matrimonial site, and ended up losing INR 400,000 ($5341) after he asked her to pay customs for a gift he was sending.
The Bollywood film Dolly Ki Doli (translates to ‘Dolly’s palanquin’) was inspired by these scams and depicts a young con artist who tricks men into marrying her, and leaves with their money on the wedding night.
Between 2009 to 2018, India’s National Commission for Women received more than 4,000 complaints of abandoned wives across India.
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