At a mass wedding held under CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan's Mukhyamantri Kanya Vivah/Nikah Yojana—the state government's wedding program for economically underprivileged sections—over 200 newlywed couples in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh reportedly received make-up boxes with condoms and contraceptive pills. The Times of India reports that Tanvi Hooda, a Jhabua collector, refuted the assertion that the contraceptives were supplied to couples in make-up boxes, saying instead that they were delivered separately and that no complaints had been made about this.
The 'nai pahal' kit, which included two months' worth of condoms, daily and weekly contraceptive tablets, and two pregnancy kits, was an attempt to spread family planning best practices. Efficiency was the driving force behind the distribution at the mass wedding, according to Dr. Ashok Patel, district family, and welfare officer. "We believed we could target the 200 or so newlyweds we observed in one location. 200 of our own healthcare professionals trained them on the gear. The equipment, however, caused misunderstanding and sparked debate. Couples had the misconception that this was a component of dowry, he told the Indian Express. Senior district administrator Bhursingh Rawat informed the Indian Express that the program did not include a provision for the distribution of such a kit.
“We have told the local administration officials to keep a check on this in future… This is a tribal area with a low literacy rate. People don’t have a lot of scientific temperament, so keeping that in view we will make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The mass wedding plan has already drawn criticism; just last month, during a related event in Dindori, the state was charged of coercing women into doing pregnancy tests. The government's participation in marriage, family planning, and reproduction has come under scrutiny, despite officials' clarification that these tests were a result of the general health screening that participating women completed.