Does the state know its limits?
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The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has announced a scheme to encourage marriages between Scheduled and non-Scheduled Castes. There is rarely any evaluation of several such government 'do-good' intentions. In reports of central and state ministries one gets a listing of the schemes and the amount of money spent. Beyond that, one is unable to get any idea of whether the scheme was availed of, who availed of it and whether it was at all successful. Big schemes, like those for poverty alleviation, are evaluated now and then and we hear about their continued lack of success; small schemes have a life of their own, unnoticed. The small do-gooder programmes go on for ever, perhaps because it is easier for bureaucrats to continue these schemes without any evaluation. They also provide easy patronage funds for politicians.
These schemes are never examined for their potential to do harm rather than good. Social engineering of any sort is fraught with the greatest dangers. To attempt it in the most private spheres of human life — marriage — is worse.
The recently announced expansion of the scheme to the entire country has a reasonably hefty monetary incentive built into it. Already, Gujarat has been giving the same amount to such inter-caste marriages with SCs. Tamil Nadu provides Rs 20,000, Orissa Rs 10,000 (up recently from Rs 3000) and West Bengal a paltry Rs 5000. The central government now proposes to give Rs 50,000 to any non-SC person marrying an SC. The central government will foot half of this bill while the state governments will foot the other half.
Minister of social justice and empowerment, Meira Kumar, used the euphemism 'inter-caste' marriage to refer to her new scheme. But surely the government has no intention of rewarding every inter-caste marriage with Rs 50,000!