Indian government to support inter-caste marriages

Getting people of different caste closer is the goal of Indian Social Justice Minister Meira Kumar. So close, the Indian government will be paying cash to any person marrying into a lower caste.

Kumar, a member of a lower caste herself, is offering Rs 75,000 as an incentive to anybody who chooses to break old taboos and marry a lower class partner. The idea is aiming at ensuring social justice and ending discrimination against people from lower castes.

Two-thirds of India’s one billion people belong to lower castes. Since they rarely have access to authority positions, lower caste members have been traditionally discriminated by upper caste members in issues like employment, housing and education.

Even though marrying members of other castes is more common among young people, India’s Supreme Court has expressed concern over the growing intimidation suffered by those young couples.

Marriages between castes are prone to cause family conflicts, especially in rural areas, where they are seen as an ‘embarrassment’. In the worst cases that could even lead to ‘honour killings’, when parents or relatives would kill members of their own family for marrying into a lower caste.

Last month, Indian Parliament also introduced a bill trying to set aside more seats in medical and engineering colleges for lower caste members. The initiative was widely opposed by members of upper classes.

According to a survey by TIMES NOW, 60% of men and 64% of women across Mumbau, New Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore think the government’s initiative will encourage inter-caste marriage. One third of the people reckon the initiative will not work.

Despite the critics, Social Justice Minister feels this is a ‘token of appreciation’ from the government to those people ignoring old prejudices and taking a step further to reach a fair society, free of caste issues.