HYDERABAD: The problem of caste prejudice in Telangana goes beyond the recent “honour killing” of 23-year-old Dalit Christian boy Pranay. A basic indicator of this fact is the reception of Centre’s Promotion of Inter-caste Marriage Scheme in the State. According to statistics, while 1,009 couples availed its benefits in 2016, the numbers dropped sharply to a mere 276 in the first 9 months of 2018. In 2017, it was just 641.
The scheme started in 1974, gives beneficiaries a sum of Rs 50,000 as a financial support to overcome social ostracisation and externment from families. Is this because inter-caste marriages are decreasing in the State, or is the government not promoting the scheme?
Officials in the Scheduled Caste Development Department claim it’s the former. “The scheme is not target oriented, rather, it’s demand oriented. If they perform the marriage, then they can approach us and we will readily award them,” said P Karunakar, Director, FAC, Scheduled Caste Development Department. However, the department does set targets to ensure sufficient funds are available. In 2017, it set a target of 2,860 couples; in 2018, the target was 1,910 couples.
Interestingly, Nalgonda, where Pranay’s murder took place, has the highest number of recipients of the scheme in 2018. With 69 couples receiving benefits here, the district is way above Hyderabad where the figures are a big zero. Activists, however, have their own doubts. The fact that the department insists on certificates from marriage registration offices and doesn’t take cognizance of the Arya Samaj marriage certificates may also be a reason, they claim.
“Inter-caste marriages have to be registered under the Special Marriage Act. The registrar’s office will put up the names and photographs of the couple on the notice board for 45 days to give room for objections if any. This discourages many couples as there is a lack of privacy,” says advocate Anita Shalabh.
Telangana sitting on proposals?
Though the Centre, in December 2017, asked State governments to increase the incentive from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2.5 lakh, Telangana has not done it so far. Though the department of social welfare has extended proposals to the finance department, the amount is yet to be increased.