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Mukhya Mantri Kanya Vivah Yojana – A welfare scheme or scam?

1815 women of Jamui district, Bihar have not yet received their entitlement under the Mukhya Mantri Kanya Vivah Yojana, since September 2013.

“I come from a poor family,” says Kiran Devi, a resident of Majhwe Village in Jamui Block, Bihar. “After my marriage, I ran around to get the form and fulfil all the procedures: I got it signed by the village head and ward member, and submitted it successfully. I even have a copy of the receipt given by the Block Development Office, but I still haven’t received the money for the past two years.”

Kiran Devi is not the only one. Her story is the story of 1815 women in Jamui Block, Jamui District in Bihar, who have applied for money under the Mukhya Mantri Kanya Vivah Yojana (MMKVY), but are yet to receive the sum that they are entitled to. Applicants like Pooja and Suman Devi of Majhwe village complain that rather than receiving any money, they have ended up spending a considerable sum on the process of applying and repeatedly enquiring at the block office.

MMKVY was launched by the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar in 2007. The primary aim of the scheme is to discourage child marriage by rewarding marriage of girls at the appropriate age, that is, when or after they become 18 years old. Additionally, preventing the practice of dowry is a stated purpose of the scheme. Upon marriage, after providing proof of marriage, residence and fulfilling some other formalities, a woman belonging to a family that earns less than Rs. 60,000 per year, is entitled to a sum of 5000 rupees. But if the situation in Jamui district is anything to go by, the scheme, currently in its 10th year of operation, is clearly not being implemented properly.

In January, 2017, at  the time that the video was shot, Majhwe Village Council member Sachin Kumar Das had said that the Block Development Officer (BDO) had informed him that a sum of six lakh rupees for paying the beneficiaries of the scheme had reached the district office, and would be available for usage in the block office soon. However, the community correspondent who shot the video, Ashok Paswan says that the money is yet to be put to good use.

“The BDO’s rationale is that since six lakh rupees is insufficient to make the payment to all 1815 applicants, the payment for each applicant should be stalled,” says Ashok. “I argued against this, saying that they should try and make the payments in order of application so that at least some of the women can receive their entitlements.” The concerned officials told Ashok that they will discuss his suggestion, but are yet to take any action.

“This was not the case till September 2013,” says Ashok. “Although the money would come in very late, if a person would apply they would receive the sum within six months, at most within a year.”

Conditional cash transfers to prevent child marriage are not unique to the state of Bihar but have been introduced widely across India from Haryana (Apni Beti Apna Dhan Program introduced in 1994) to Goa (Ladli Lakshmi Scheme launched in 2012). Many scholars have questioned the use of such cash transfer programs. They argue that these schemes do not strike at the root of the problem, which is adolescent girls not having enough agency to make important decisions in their life, not only with regard to marriage but also other matters like employment and childbirth. Programmes that are based on financial incentives continue to focus on parents as decision-makers, making no endeavour to better the agency of adolescent girls within their households and their communities.

Though the larger criticism of these schemes is valid, that cannot justify half-baked implementation. If the Bihar government has adopted the strategy of using these schemes to curb child marriage, it needs to implement them. As nearly two thousand women continue to run from pillar to post in the state with the highest prevalence of child marriage in India, are the authorities listening?

Call and ask the Block Development Officer Vinit Kumar to release the funds as soon as possible. His number is +91-9431818268

Article by Shrishti Malhotra
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