Srinagar: Ghulam Nabi Sheikh (name changed), a daily wager, has been saving money for the last 10 years for his daughter’s marriage.
Last year when his daughter got engaged, the entire savings went into buying gold and managing other rituals.
Depressed and dejected, he borrowed money from his relatives and still fell short of nearly Rs 50,000.
Much to his delight, Sheikh learnt from his relative that the Social Welfare Department was financially assisting the economically poor women under the State Marriage Assistance Scheme (SMAS).
“We availed benefits of the scheme and I was given a sum of Rs 40,000 last year. With this financial assistance, I purchased a few items for my daughter,” he said.
Not just Sheikh, scores of the economically poor families have availed benefits under this scheme. “I too applied for the scheme and was given Rs 50,000 a few months before my wedding,” said Arifa (name changed) of Baramulla.
SMAS is a Social Assistance Scheme implemented by the Social Welfare Department to financially assist un-married identified women in Jammu and Kashmir who belong to the below poverty line category.
Jammu and Kashmir Administrative Council headed by Lt Governor Manoj Sinha earlier this month restructured the State Marriage Assistance Scheme to provide benefits to all AAY and PHH families.
As per the restructured scheme, any girl of legally marriageable age belonging to the families of Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), or Priority Household (PHH) ration card holders, will be eligible for one-time financial assistance of Rs 50,000.
The number of beneficiaries as per an official has been swelling for the last few years.
Official records suggest that more than 37000 persons have benefited under the scheme since its inception with the cumulative financial assistance of Rs 144.30 crore provided to the beneficiaries.
“In 2020-21, the J&K government sanctioned 8254 cases and assisted Rs 32.78 crore. In Kashmir division, the department sanctioned 4940 cases, releasing marriage aid of Rs 19.58 crore,” an official said.
To ensure that every beneficiary avails the financial assistance, Jammu and Kashmir government has asked the district administrations to submit the cases of the beneficiaries under the State Marriage Assistance Scheme (SMAS) every fortnightly.
As per an official document accessed by The Kashmir Monitor, the Deputy Commissioners have been asked to submit cases of beneficiaries at the office of the Social Welfare Department on fortnightly basis.
“Deputy Commissioner shall submit the cases of the eligible beneficiaries after due verification on fortnightly basis to the social welfare department to ensure that all the eligible beneficiaries get the financial assistance well before the date of marriage,” it said.
The administration has revised the norms for the eligibility of the scheme, which included verified legally marriageable age of the beneficiary belongs to Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) or Priority Household (PHH).
The guidelines said the beneficiary should have a minimum qualification of 8th class and should have not availed benefits under other centrally sponsored schemes including Ladli Beti.
“During 2022-2023 and 2023-2024, restructured guidelines shall be implemented irrespective of education status of beneficiary girls. From 01-04-2044 onwards the beneficiary girl has to compulsory produce a certificate for having passed 8th class,” it said.