In Indian society, marriages are inextricably linked to a caste system, with its roots in religion. To marry out of your caste is considered unacceptable, often even resulting in honour killings. Even though our law allows inter-caste marriage, it does little to protect those who do marry outside their caste.
In an attempt to change this, the government extends financial incentives to inter-caste couples, to help them settle down in the initial years of their marriage. Under the Dr. Ambedkar Scheme for Social Integration through Inter-Caste Marriages, the Union ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment provides ₹2.50 lakh per marriage.
It hopes the scheme will encourage more inter-caste marriages and help reduce caste prejudices in India.
Recently, the Odisha government doubled its incentive amount from ₹50,000 to ₹1 lakh, which will be given to couples irrespective of their economic status. Between 2010 and 2016, 4100 couples who married outside their caste received these cash incentives. The couples can use the money to purchase land or household things.
Odisha isn’t the only state that has such a scheme. States like Haryana, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan also have similar schemes.
While the Bihar government pays ₹1 lakh to couples who married out of their caste, the Haryana government gives an incentive of ₹1.01 lakh to a Scheduled Caste (SC) man or woman who marry a Non-Scheduled Caste woman or man. Sor far, the state has provided financial aid of about ₹1 crore to 161 couples, under the Mukhya Mantri Samajik Samrasta Antarjatiya Vivah Shagun Yojana.
The inter-caste marriage incentive in Himachal Pradesh was enhanced from ₹25,000 to ₹75,000 in 2013, by the cabinet headed by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.
In Karnataka, inter-caste couples can get ₹3 lakh if the wife is from a Scheduled Caste community and ₹2 lakh if the husband is. According to Hindustan Times, Rajasthan is the only state which gives ₹5 lakh to inter-caste couples.
The Maharashtra government is currently in the process of framing an Inter-Caste Marriage Act, which will provide financial support to inter-caste couples and also give them priority in employment.