Long wait for 2,300 couples

  • In Punjab, more than 2,300 couples yet to get a grant of Rs 50,000 for the past six years
  • State government fails to release matching grant
  • It is a 50:50 sharing scheme of the Union and state governments
  • The object of the scheme is to diminish caste consciousness among people and encourage inter-caste marriages
  • One of the spouse should be SC to get the benefit

Jupinderjit Singh & Sushil Goyal

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh/Sangrur, January 1

Hind Kumar, a Dalit youth, and his wife, belonging to an Arora family, had a reason to cheer amid fears when they tied the knot against the wishes of their families in May 2012 at Sangrur. They were to get a special grant of Rs 50,000 for the inter-caste marriage.

The grant was to be equally shared by the Centre and state governments as part of a scheme to encourage inter-caste marriages. But even after two-and-a-half-years of their marriage, the couple is yet to receive the grant. Hind Kumar said he had spent a lot of money from his pocket to visit the District Welfare Office, Sangrur, to know the status of his case.Another Dalit youth, Shakti, who married a Jat Sikh girl, has met the same fate. There are more than 2,300 such couples who have not received the promised incentive since January 2008.The initial amount to be given to a couple under the joint scheme of the Centre and the state governments was Rs 25,000.

It was hiked to Rs 50,000 in 2011, but still no payments have been made.Sources in the Social Welfare Department say the Union Government has been releasing funds regularly for the scheme, but the state government has failed to release the matching grant. The state government has kept the Centre’s share in the unspent fund, reveal sources.“We may get Rs 6 crore to be distributed among inter-caste couples,” said an official of the Social Welfare Department refusing to comment on reasons behind the delayed payments.An RTI activist from Hoshiarpur, Jai Gopal Dhiman, who is fighting for the cause of the inter-caste couples for the past three years, said: “The government keeps on promising that the funds will be released soon, but in vain. It is a mockery of the system.

The government announces incentives for encouraging inter-caste and inter-faith marriages, but delays incentive.”He said the maximum number of beneficiaries were from Hoshiarpur. There are more than 300 such couples in the district, he said.“I have visited the District Welfare Office some 30 times during past five years to know the status of my case. Officials say they have not received funds from the Centre,” said Shakti, a Dalit youth from Sangrur.To get the benefit of the scheme, both the spouses should be residents of the state and one of them should be from the Scheduled Caste community.