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Marriage aid prod to J&K

Srinagar, Jan. 2: Jammu and Kashmir High Court has said the state government should provide poor girls Rs 25,000 in cash and five grams of gold for marriage, stepping in with a welfare plan the administration doesn’t offer.

Confusion persists over the nature of yesterday’s intervention that will cost the Omar Abdullah government around Rs 1,600 crore if followed.

The division bench, which said a “separate fund” should be set up for the purpose, used the word “directions” in some instances and “directions\suggestions” in others.

But the state’s advocate-general Mohammad Ishaq Qadri termed them “suggestions” that are not binding on the government. “The government’s reply was that we will look into these suggestions,” he said.

Qadri “welcomed the suggestion” but asserted the issue fell in the executive’s domain. “Policies are to be made by the government, the court can only suggest. It depends on availability of funds… involves thousands of crores. It is a very good suggestion but we don’t have funds and have to see (how the money can be generated).”

This government estimated, after a survey, that there are 3.73 lakh poor girls in the state. The expenditure on each will be around Rs 40,000, officials said. This will include Rs 15,000, the cost of 5gm gold.

The court was hearing a PIL on the exploitation of some girls working for a private security agency in 2011. During the hearings, the government had been asked to identify “poor girls susceptible to all kinds of exploitation because of extreme poverty”.

Kashmir has had no such schemes but some other states do offer such benefits. Madhya Pradesh’s BJP government-led by Shivraj Singh Chouhan has a Kanyadaan Yojana under which Rs 15,000 is given to poor girls who tie the knot in state-organised mass marriages.

Bengal has rolled out Kanyashree to prevent under-age marriage and help girls continue studies. It is one of chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s pet projects.

In Kashmir, the bench of Justices Virender Singh and Muzaffar Hussain Attar stressed that the financial assistance would help poor girls fight the “evil forces of society and lead a life based on moral values”.

“Jammu and Kashmir shall constitute a separate fund for which the state would be at liberty to seek donations from philanthropists. This fund shall be utilised for the marriage of the girls identified by the state authorities,” the court said.

The court has also asked the government to formulate a scheme under which areas, both urban and rural, where such girls are the most vulnerable could be clubbed and “societies/co-operatives” set up for their welfare.“Two or three mohalla/wards in urban areas and one or two villages in rural areas can constitute a unit... The girls of these areas be made part of society/co-operative society which shall be exclusively for these girls and for their benefits…The amount which would be required for launching these societies shall be provided by the government,” the court said.

It also suggested that “wherever required”, such girls should be helped with training in handicrafts, tailoring, knitting, poultry and other skills.

“The products of these societies/co-operative societies shall be purchased by the (state) handicrafts department… The payments to these co-operative societies shall be made at the time of purchase of the products. Further, the profits earned by the government outlets shall be shared by societies/co-operative societies in equal proportion,” the court said.