Encouraging exogamy (inter-caste marriages), the Centre will provide a one-time incentive of Rs 2.5 lakh to a married couple where either the groom or the bride is a dalit. The provision comes after an amendment was made to the 2013 Dr Ambedkar Scheme for Social Integration through Inter Caste Marriage, where only couples with a total annual income of less than Rs 5 lakh were eligible for the incentive.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment directed, in a recent order to all states, that ‘the condition that the total income of the newly-wedded couple will not exceed Rs 5 lakh per annum’ be annulled, and there will be ‘no income limit for incentive under the scheme’. It also made it mandatory for the couples to submit their Aadhaar numbers and details of their Aadhaar-linked joint bank account. “Many states that have similar schemes do not have an income limit; so the Centre too decided it to remove it,” said a ministry official.
The 2013 Dr Ambedkar scheme for social Integration through inter-caste marriage aimed at providing incentives to 500 such couples every year. The scheme was to ‘appreciate the socially bold step’ and to enable couples to ‘settle down in the initial phase of their married life.’ Apart from the income cap, there were other pre-conditions to avail of the incentive; one of it being, it should be their first marriage that should be registered under the Hindu Marriages Act and the proposal should be submitted within a year of marriage.
Ever since its announcement, the scheme had failed its reach. In 2014-15, only five couples were provided with the incentive, as opposed to the target of 500 couples. 72 of the 522 couples who applied were offered the incentive in 2015-16 and 45 of the 736 applications got it in 2016-2017. Only 74 of 409 proposals received so far are cleared by the Center.
The scheme witnesses a low turnout as the couples don’t meet all the pre-conditions. For example, while only intermarriages registered under the Hindu Marriage Act are eligible, many cases under the Special Marriages Act are disregarded. Awareness about the scheme is also seen as another impediment.
This scheme's goal was to discourage the Hindu practice of marrying on the ‘traditional grounds of jatis (castes) and up-jatis (sub-castes)’. The notion is rooted in Babasaheb Ambedkar's teaching that said that caste and endogamy (custom of marrying within one’s own community) are the same thing. He had noted that, ‘prohibition, or rather the absence of intermarriage — endogamy, to be concise — is the only one that can be called the essence of caste’ and advocated ‘fusion’ through intermarriage (exogamy).