Odisha Government Has Launched A Portal To Incentivise Intercaste Marriages. Maybe This Will Bring Us Together
Marriages are at the epicenter of our sociocultural life. By promoting healthy practices in marriage, a lot can be fixed: gender parity, gender-based crimes, casteism and more. And while recently, a jewellery ad was embroiled in controversy for promoting interfaith marriages, it opened a dialogue about religious tolerance in India. It was so simple—that humanity and love are above traditions and cultural practices. And while humans remain united and divided by faith, India is also plagued by the upper and lower caste divide, for ages now. To bring in more social harmony, the Odisha government has launched a web portal that will help couples in intercaste marriages to get their incentives within two months of the application.
So what is the incentive we are talking about here? The Odisha government, spearheaded by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has been rewarding intercaste couples with financial incentives. And while earlier the couples would get a benefit of one lakh, in 2018 the amount was raised to 2.5 lakhs. The Sumangal portal developed by the ST & SC Development, Minorities & Backward Classes Welfare Department will help such couples to avail of their incentives hassle-free within 60 days.
This scheme does have some conditions that help safeguard both people in such intercaste marriages. The amount will be deposited in a joint account of the couple in a nationalized bank. They will be able to withdraw it only after three years of marriage. To encourage security investments, this incentive is ought to be used for property, business, and such purposes.
Also, the marriage needs to be registered and husband or wife can belong to the scheduled castes, as per Article 341 of the Indian Constitution. This incentive will only be given to people marrying for the first time but widows/widowers are eligible.
With this, the Odisha government aims to promote social harmony between the so-called upper and lower caste and gradually blur this divide. It will also help limit the issues that arise due to the caste divide in India – be it riots or discrimination. This is bound to make a huge difference since at least 17 percent of Odisha’s population is comprised of Dalits.
In 2017-18, 543 couples availed of the benefit. Last year, there were 658 intercaste marriages in Odisha. And while financial incentives shouldn’t be a motivation to marry someone, it can definitely couples feel a lot more secure. Several couples feel they will not get enough support from family and are left to struggle with making ends meet. This scheme has been helping couples in intercaste marriages have a nest egg for their financial security.
While it is really easy to assume that you are bound to feel more comfortable marrying into a family from the same community, caste, culture, it is often not true. These presumptions are essentially based on familiarity and familiarity breeds comfort. But mindset precedes cultural practises and it all comes down to respect and tolerance. You can blend in a family whose values are based on mutual respect and not your gotra and all that.
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When you’re looking to get married, most people look for a partner in their own community and caste. There are barely any people that are open to a multicultural marriage and often, people conclude that there must be something wrong with them. They assume they have a dearth of options in their caste. But whether the discrimination is between upper and lower castes, different faiths or cultures, it’s time we learn to live in harmony. Do you remember learning the phrase, ‘unity in diversity’ back in the school days? I actually thought that was true but as I grew up, I realised that India is divided in so many ways.
Hopefully, this incentive system will help more intercaste couples to get married, and maybe that will lead the caste divide to blur.
The government of Odisha has also launched another website, the Integrated Odisha State Scholarship Portal which enables students to avail of scholarships with ease. Around 11 lakh students will benefit from it and will belong to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes.