In a bid to promote the ‘socially bold’ step of inter-caste marriages with Dalits, the Narendra Modi government has gone an extra-mile and flexed the rules for the same. The Centre has issued directions to remove the income cap of Rs 5 lakh to avail the cash incentive as per ‘Dr Ambedkar scheme for social Integration through inter-caste marriage.’ The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has directed to junk “the condition that the total income of the newly-wedded couple will not exceed Rs 5 lakh per annum”. Now there will be no income limit for one to claim incentive under the scheme. Earlier, inter-caste couples (with Dalit bride or bridegroom), whose total annual income did not exceed Rs 5 lakh, were eligible to get a one-time incentive of Rs 2.5 lakh from the Centre.
Not just this, the Centre has also cracked down on other eligibility criteria which include that the marriage should be the couple’s first marriage and should be registered under the Hindu Marriages Act, with the proposal being submitted within a year of marriage. However, two fresh implications have also been imposed by the incumbent government to avail the benefit of the scheme. The ministry has now made it mandatory for the couples to submit their Aadhaar numbers and details of their Aadhaar-linked joint bank account.
Explaining the rationale behind removing the pre-existing conditions, a ministry official told The Indian Express, “Many states that have similar schemes do not have an income limit; so the Centre too decided to remove it.” It is no less than a travesty that the scheme hasn’t been well implemented at the ground level since its very inception. As per the report, merely five couples were given the beneficiary amount as against an annual target of 500 couples in 2014-15. While 2015-16 saw some growth with facility extending to 72 couples but the scheme yet remained off from the target. Getting the approval to avail the scheme has also been problematic. The report states that from the 409 proposals that the social justice ministry received in 2017, only 74 couples got the clearance from the government. Hopefully, with the new norms being floored, the couples won’t have a tough time claiming the incentive.
A research cited in the report points out that the percentage of inter-caste marriages in India is just about 11 per cent. It must be noted that the ‘Dr Ambedkar scheme for social Integration through inter-caste marriage’ was initiated in 2013 aiming to provide a fiscal incentive to at least 500 such inter-caste couples every year. The scheme was meant to enable the couple to “settle down in the initial phase of their married life”.