Encouraging Inter-Caste marriages has been one of the ways by which the Government aims to reduce caste prejudice and caste based discrimination. Central Assistance has been extended to states for many years now to encourage inter-caste marriages. But the dedicated scheme of the Dr. Ambedkar Foundation has failed to achieve even 10% of the targets. The government has now eased the norms in a bid to find more takers for the scheme.
Encouraging Inter-Caste marriages is one of the ways by which the Government aims to reduce caste prejudice and caste based discrimination. The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has been funding a centrally Sponsored Scheme where in Central assistance is provided to the State Governments and Union Territory Administrations, towards incentive for inter-caste marriages, where one of the spouses belongs to a Scheduled Castes. This scheme was part of the implementation of the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of atrocities) Act, 1989.
Rajasthan provides Rs 5 lakh as incentive, the highest in the country
A key element of the central assistance to states is to provide incentive for inter- caste marriages, where one of the spouses is a member of a Scheduled Caste. The quantum of incentive amount is decided by the state government. It is currently between Rs 10000 and Rs 500000 in various states. Rajasthan provides the highest incentive for an inter-caste marriage (Rs 5 lakh) followed by Rs 2 lakh in Madhya Pradesh and Rs 1 lakh in Goa. Most other states provide Rs 50,000 as incentive. West Bengal, Jharkhand, Sikkim & Assam provide less than Rs 50,000 as incentive for an inter-caste marriage.
Most beneficiaries from Maharashtra
The center released assistance to the tune of Rs 29.71 crore in 2013-14, Rs 42.22 crore in 2014-15, Rs 51.08 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 50.63 crore in 2016-17. Government data also indicates that 15711 beneficiaries were covered under the scheme in 2014-15 and 14681 beneficiaries were covered in 2015-16. The government estimates that the number will cross 20000 in 2016-17. Maharashtra received the highest amount of central assistance during this period and it is also the state with most number of beneficiaries under the scheme. An estimated 13000 odd couples have benefitted from this scheme in Maharashtra between 2014-15 and 2016-17, the home state of Dr. B R Ambedkar. Though Rajasthan provides the highest quantum of incentive, only 1000 odd couples have benefitted from the scheme between 2014-15 and 2016-17. Bihar received only Rs 1 lakh as central assistance in 2014-15 under this scheme and the state did not seek a single rupee of central assistance in both 2015-16 and 2016-17.
Dedicated Scheme launched by Dr. Ambedkar Foundation
While this central assistance is still in place, Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, an institution under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has come up with a dedicated central scheme; ‘Dr. Ambedkar Scheme for Social Integration through Inter-Caste Marriages’ for encouraging inter-caste marriages.
The scheme was initially launched in 2013. The following documents must be submitted along with the application.
- Name, Aadhaar number & address of the couple (self attested copy of Voter ID/Driving License/Passport has to be enclosed)
- Self attested copy of the birth certificate of both the husband and wife
- Self attested copy of the caste certificate of both the husband and wife
- An affidavit of their being legally married and in matrimonial alliance on a plain paper
- Self attested copy of the marriage certificate registered under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955
- A certificate to the effect that it is the first marriage of both the bride and the bridegroom
- Recommendation letter by sitting MP/MLA or District Collector
The dedicated scheme of Dr. Ambedkar Foundation fails to take off
Despite the high incentive amount of Rs 2.5 lakh (more than what is provided by most state governments), the scheme has failed to take off. Only about 19 couples received benefit in 2015. In 2016-17, only 59 couples received the incentive against a target of 500. As per a government press release, only 126 couples benefitted under the scheme in three years against a target of 1500 in three years.
Despite the relatively high incentive amount of Rs 2.5 lakh, lack of awareness coupled with the stringent norms resulted in less than 10% achievement under the scheme. With the government now easing norms by removing the income ceiling and the need for the state government to forward the proposal, one hopes that the scheme will be utilized by eligible beneficiaries in the years to come.
Featured image: icons from Indian Wedding by Adam Mullin, Indian Bride, Brahmin by Sitara Shah from the Noun Project