A (helping) hand in marriage
The Special Marriage Assistance Scheme, started in 2015 and restructured in 2022, is
finally enabling weddings of girls from poor families. And with the process being online,
things are even easier for needy families.
THE State Marriage Assistance Scheme was launched by the Jammu and Kashmir government in 2015. But for all these years, it had remained restricted to the kin of the local leaders. The benefits of the scheme didn’t exactly penetrate to the poor masses. But in 2022, the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor administration restructured the scheme to make it more transparent. Today, beneficiaries can be seen queuing up outside tehsil offices to avail of the benefits of the assistance scheme.
The SMAS is a scheme by the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir for unmarried girls from poor families who find it difficult to marry due to financial constraints. The scheme is run by the Jammu and Kashmir Social Welfare department with the help of sarpanches and local aanganwadi workers. The task of aanganwadi workers is to target the beneficiary and make her aware of the procedure of availing of the scheme. Today, a beneficiary can register online. Earlier, the scheme was cumbersome with a lot of paper work and documentation which rendered the scheme redundant. Needless to say that the social assistance scheme is proving to be a great succour for girls from families living below the poverty line in J&K. Under the scheme, an unmarried girl above 18 years of age and from a BPL family, will receive Rs 50,000 cash assistance at the time of her wedding. And to plug loopholes and bring transparency, the District Social Welfare Officer (DSWO) verifies the details of the beneficiary regarding her marital status & age and submits the case before the Deputy Commissioner along with the requisite documents and his/her recommendations. The Deputy Commissioner then sanctions the financial assistance in favour of the beneficiary girl after determining the eligibility and reasonably satisfying
himself/herself about the genuineness of the case.
A much-needed succour
Rubeena Farooq, 32, daughter of a poor farmer, used to be distressed to see her colleagues enter into matrimony while she was aware that the income of her father wasn’t enough for her to get married. Her father had opened a bank account in her name to save from his meagre earnings for her wedding but till 2022, the money in the account was minimal and then, it was going into the unforeseen expenditure that had arisen due to the medical emergency of her mother. And since the family was uneducated without any awareness
about any government schemes to help them, things were bad. And then, she recalls, “Last year, a match-maker visited us with a marriage proposal. We categorically explained to him our economic constraints. He told us he could make some arrangements from the local Auqaf committee funds. We started to somehow collect funds for my wedding with the help of the community. And then, one of my school teachers informed my father and I about the State Marriage Assistance Scheme (SMAS). We started to furnish our documents and details and applied for the same. And well, after three months of my nikaah, I received Rs. 50,000 directly into my account”. Rubeena is now expecting her first child. She says
the scheme turned out to be a huge help and she has been recommending it to many other girls. Getting the scheme’s benefits wasn’t that easy in case of Zubaida, a girl from Sopore, and who lives in the vicinity of Rubeena. She has a different ordeal to share with us. She also applied for the scheme but found the process cumbersome and she feels the officials in the social welfare department haven’t been helpful. She remarks: “After applying online for the scheme, my father and I went to the social welfare department to submit our documents. The employees there pointed out some discrepancies which we rectified and furnished details within the same day. Later, they dispatched a team to our locality for the purpose of verification. But since then, my file hasn’t proceeded further. When I visited the department about the delay, they said the verification team
wasn’t satisfied with our claim. It seems the scheme is provided on the whims and fancies of the department”. But an official from the Department of Social Welfare, Sopore, told KC that the verification is done in a transparent manner. He explains that the funds are limited at this moment but “once we receive funds, we prioritise helping beneficiaries as
per the date of registration of application”. Finally, just a few days back, Zubaida has received a call from the department, asking her to furnish her documents online again and avail of the benefit of the scheme. Well, the scheme does continue to help girls and
fulfil their dreams of a decent wedding.