Inter-caste marriages on rise, few takers for its scheme, fewer receive the benefits

Mumbai : Couples who marry out of their castes don’t seem to be aware of the government scheme, Dr. Ambedkar Scheme for Social Integration through inter-caste marriages. And the couples who sign up for the scheme, hardly 10 percent of them receive the benefits.

Despite the high incentive amount of Rs 2.5 lakh (more than what is provided by other state governments), the scheme has failed to take off. Only about 19 couples received the 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 benefited under the scheme in three years against a target of 1500 in three years.

Launched in 2013, the state government provides the fund under the scheme to couples (both should be Maharashtra citizens) who get married under the rules and regulations of inter-caste marriage. Encouraging inter-caste marriages is one of the ways by which the government aims to reduce caste prejudice and caste-based discrimination, but many remain unaware of the scheme.

Sunanda Kulkarni, who co-owns Swami Samarth Marriage Bureau, said the count has increased a lot in last couple of years. “If we count from March 2016-March 2017, we see a rise of around 35 percent. But it has nothing to do with the (government) scheme. Most of the people don’t even know whether such scheme exists,” she said. Kulkarni also runs a website under the name Pavitra Vivah.

Kulkarni also said that couples who know of the scheme complain of long and tedious process. She further added that there should be a provision in which the marriage registrar could provide the couples with financial assistance the moment they register the marriage.

Couples who are in need of money try to apply for the scheme but they can’t make it through the extensive procedure.

“I have been married for last three years. The scheme was newly-launched and we tried to apply for the same. We are not lettered enough to go through the process. We did not even have a bank account,” said Sayali Jadhav, 24, a Bhayandar resident, who sews to keep her home fires burning.

“We decided to forget about it and continue with the marriage proceedings anyway. Although it would have been better had we got some money to take care of the after-marriage expenses,” Jadhav added.

However, ironically, the low numbers of Maharashtra are the highest as compared to all the other states. Maharashtra received the highest amount of central assistance during this period and it is also the state with the most number of beneficiaries under the scheme.

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