For Shabnum (name changed), like hundreds of poor girls, the Jammu and Kashmir government’s State Marriage Assistance Scheme (SMAS) has come as a saviour, providing enormous relief during marriage arrangements.
Shabnum, 25, from a remote hamlet of southern Shopian district of Kashmir valley was married in 2019 after her parents arranged a good match for their daughter in a nearby village.
“To find a suitable match always remains a tough task but more cumbersome is expenditure a marriage incurs. Marriage assistance scheme helped us in a big way. We felt relieved after my sister was married in 2019 with the amount (Rs 40,000) provided by the government,” the brother of Shabnum said.
SMAS for poor girls is a Social Assistance Scheme meant for those un-married identified girls of the UT living below the poverty line who may not find themselves in a position to marry due to financial constraint.
Widening its endeavor to reach out to the poor section of society to take the benefits, the government under this scheme is lending a helping hand to the poor families who couldn’t afford to marry their daughters.
In this regard, during the 2020-21 financial year, the J&K Government under the scheme which is being run by the Social Welfare Department (SWD) has sanctioned 8254 cases and provided an assistance of Rs 32.78 crore.
For the year 20-21, in Kashmir division the department has sanctioned 4940 cases, releasing marriage aid of Rs 19.58 crore.
The highest number of marriage assistance cases was sanctioned for Kulgam district of Kashmir division with disbursement of Rs 4.20 crore. Similarly, in Baramulla district the department has sanctioned 947 cases with an amount of Rs 3.78 crore followed by Pulwama district where 615 cases were sanctioned and 2.40 crore was released as marriage aid to the BPL families.
The Social assistance scheme is proving a great succor for unmarried girls of the J&K UT living below the poverty line, who may not find themselves in a position to marry due to financial constraints.
Under this scheme an unmarried girl above 18 years of age belonging to BPL family will receive Rs 25,000 cash assistance and cost of 5 grams of gold at the time of her marriage.
The norms for availing benefit under the scheme are that the prospective beneficiary girl should be above 18 years of age, should be an identified poor girl in the survey list available with the concerned DDCs and DSWOs.
The Social Welfare Department is the nodal department for implementation of the scheme.
Likewise, in Jammu division of the Union Territory, the SWD has approved 3314 cases during the year 2020-21 and released an amount of Rs 13.20 crore.
And during the same year, the most number of marriage assistance cases were approved in Poonch district of the division with 597 and an amount of Rs 2.39 crore was released in favour of the girls followed by Udhampur where an amount of Rs 2.32 crore has been released in favour of brides among below poverty line families.
Rajni’s (name changed) parents, who hail from a village from district Kathua’s Billawar area, had more worries than to cherish as their daughter’s marriage date was drawing close back in 2020 with little resources for marriage arrangements.
“Being a manual laborer as I earn hand-to-mouth, we were worried how we could arrange marriage stuff for our daughter,” Rajni’s father said and added that a relative informed him about the government’s marriage assistance scheme where the family could get financial aid for their daughter’s marriage.
“Such schemes for distressed and poor families mean a world for people like us,” he said. Subsequently the family received Rs 40,000 from the Social Welfare Department after few formalities and the marriage was organized in a smooth manner.
So far 36,378 persons have been benefited under the scheme since its inception with the cumulative financial assistance to Rs 144.30 crore provided to the beneficiaries.
Also, Advisor to Lieutenant Governor, Farooq Khan, who is also the incharge of Social Welfare Department, has termed the Scheme as a big boon for poor girls, and added the scheme has greatly benefited the deprived section of the society.
He reiterated that the present government is committed to help people like old age, handicapped, widows and poor families to give them a hope that they could live their life in a better way and independently.