India has a long way to go when it comes to normalising inter-caste marriages. However, a positive step in the right direction has been taken by the Odisha Government, which launched a web portal on Tuesday to help inter-caste couples get an incentive within 60 days of their marriage application.
The initiative is led by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. The portal called SUMANGAL has been launched to promote inter-caste marriages. The portal has been developed by the ST & SC Development, Minorities & Backward Classes Welfare Department. In 2018, the incentive for such marriages had been increased from 1 lakh to 2.5 lakh. Patnaik said such marriages would lead to social harmony. “Inter-caste marriage strengthens social integration, lessens caste prejudices and spreads the values of equality and harmony in society,” the Chief Minister added.
The incentive amount would be deposited in a joint account of the couple in any nationalised bank, and they would be able to withdraw the amount only after three years of marriage. To get the one-time incentive, the marriage should be between upper-caste Hindus and Hindu of scheduled castes. The marriage should be valid as per the law and duly registered under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. One of the spouses should belong to the scheduled castes as defined under Article 341 of the Constitution of India.
The grant would only be given to people marrying for the first time. However in case, the bride is a widow or the bride-groom a widower, they would be eligible for the incentive. Monetary incentives will also be given for the purchase of lands/essential articles for house-hold or for starting a business. According to a report in Moneycontrol, the amount would be given to the beneficiaries irrespective of their economic background.
In 2017-18, 543 couples availed the benefit, leading to a spend of Rs 2.65 crore as incentive by the state government. In the last year, the number rose to 658 inter-caste marriages.
Social media users cheered the initiative by the government. “Such initiatives will empower new inter-caste married couples to survive in this racist world, which will gradually change the process of interracial marriage and racial discrimination,” said a Twitter user.
Many asked why this can’t be implemented across all states in India, and also commended the “underrated” chief minister Naveen Patnaik.
The step by the Odisha government to incentivise inter-caste marriages is in the right direction, and one hopes it will lead to further caste integration in society. Let us give love a chance to succeed.