Under the scheme, the government provides Rs 1 lakh towards marriage for women over 18 from poor families. The intent of this programme is to eradicate child marriage.

Kalyana Lakshmi scheme has brought down child marriages in TelanganaFile photo/PTI
news Study Tuesday, July 09, 2019 - 18:29

A study carried out by Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad and Mahita, an NGO working for the empowerment of poor and marginalised communities, has found that the Telangana government’s Kalyana Lakshmi and Shaadi Mubarak (for Muslims) scheme has brought down the rate of child marriages in the state. However, this hasn’t brought any substantial change towards the girl child, the study reported.

Under the scheme, the government provides Rs 1 lakh towards marriage for women from poor families. The scheme can be availed by women who have completed 18 years of age, belong to the marginalised communities of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Minorities and Backward Castes, with the combined income of parents not exceeding Rs 2 lakh per annum. The primary intent of this programme is to eradicate the menace of child marriage.

The study, titled ‘Conditional Cash Transfer Schemes in Telangana’, was carried in Jogulamba Gadwal, a drought-prone district where child marriages are rampant. The researchers interacted with government officials, non-governmental organisation representatives, religious leaders, Anganwadi workers, families of beneficiaries, and adolescent girls for this study.

According to the study, the enhancement of the scheme benefit to Rs 1 lakh has made people pause before deciding on getting girls married before they turned 18. “If Rs 1 lakh out of an expenditure of 2 to 3 lakhs is taken care of, it is a huge incentive for the parents who are now willing to delay the marriage of the child till 18 or risk losing this substantial amount of money. Therefore, the incidence of child marriages has reduced in anticipation of getting the money,” it states.

The study also found that the ages of women getting married is more than the ages of men in many cases, after the scheme was implemented. “One reason for older women in marital matches becoming desirable could be because of the monetary impetus of the schemes. Due to the availability of assured money, some of it is being promised or demanded as dowry,” the study says.

The researchers noted several instances of people resorting to forgery and fraud to avail benefits of the scheme. While some attempted to change their caste to avail the benefit, in other instances they have changed the date of birth of minor girls on their Aadhaar cards to claim that they are over 18.

The researchers also found there were several loopholes in the scheme, particularly in establishing the authenticity of Muslim women. “Due to the practice of women’s seclusion or purdah, a male officer who visits the home for verification would not be allowed to enter to check her bonafide,” it reads.

The involvement of several officials, including the MLA, in disbursing the amount leads to corruption, the study finds.

The researchers suggested that for both the Shaadi Mubarak and Kalyana Lakshmi schemes the government should emphasise on the legal registration of marriage and not simply rely on certificates by religious community leaders. “Since the potential beneficiaries are often non-literate and find it difficult to navigate the system, it would perhaps help them if the scheme is restructured such that applicant data is shared between government departments based on Aadhar or some other ID rather than ask them to get each document individually. This step would (a) ease the burden on the applicants, (b) make the process more transparent and (c) eliminate the intervention of middlemen,” the study says.

“Tighter administrative control to curb corruption and elimination of political approval at any stage is needed as such approval fosters a culture of political patronage,” it adds.

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