India’s government has expanded a scheme offering payment incentives to Hindus who marry members of the country’s poorest and most oppressed Dalit caste.
A scheme introduced in 2013 offered 250,000 rupees (£2,900) to encourage Hindus from higher castes to marry members of the Dalit (“untouchable”) community, in the hope that it would help to remove the stigma of inter-caste marriage and foster greater social cohesion. To qualify, the annual income of the spouse from the high caste had to be less than 500,000 rupees (£5,800). The government envisaged about 500 such marriages annually, but less than 100 have taken place each year. On Wednesday, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment announced it would scrap the income ceiling, and said all couples in which one spouse is from the Dalit caste would receive the cash incentive.
Ancient prejudices against Dalits remain stubbornly entrenched in India. Marriages between the higher castes and Dalits are very rare, with the vast majority of Indians marrying within their own caste. Many Indians will not even eat with a Dalit. Dalits were traditionally thought to fall outside the four castes that determined the shape of Hindu lives, from jobs and diets to marriage prospects.(theguardian)…[+]