Odisha Chief Minister on Tuesday launched a digital initiative called 'Sumangal' for the promotion of Inter-caste Marriages. Under the Odisha Right to Public Services Act 2012, Govt of Odisha provided cash incentives of 2.5 lakhs to inter-caste married couples directly through online mode.
In a press meet Odisha CM said, "Sumangal portal would help prevail social harmony. The portal will promote transparency, simplify procedures, and further streamline public service delivery besides serving as a digital single window for the beneficiaries."
The digital initiative was launched under 5T charter of governance (Technology, Transparency, Teamwork and Time leading to Transformation model of governance) Naveen Patnaik Government implemented which when he was re-elected for the fifth consecutive term. Applicants can go to sumangal.odisha.gov.in, the official government website.
After approval, eligible beneficiaries will get incentive within 60 days from application submission date. Sumangal portal is said to be aimed at social integration and removal of untouchability. There are provisions for cash incentives to inter-caste married couples if marriage is solemnized between caste Hindus and Schedule Castes belonging to Hindu communities. Inter-caste marriages can be one of the significant steps to reduce caste-prejudices, abolish 'untouchability' and spread the value of liberty, equality, fraternity in society.
According to the rules and regulations in the portal, "The Inter-Caste marriage should be valued as per the existing Hindu Marriage Act 1955. The grant shall be given only once. i.e. persons marrying for the first time only will be entitled to the grant except in the case, where the bride is a widow or the bride-groom a widower and this should be mentioned in the marriage registration certificate. Award of grant and the above facilities shall be admissible in case of marriage solemnized only after dating of issue of the resolution issued by the government from time to time. No incentive will be available on second or subsequent marriage."
Meanwhile, criticisms were raised about the effectiveness and transparency of the web portal.
"The new initiative by the government to promote inter-caste marriage is good, but this is not enough to eradicate caste barriers in marriage. In India, 60 to 70% belongs to rural areas where the situation is different. If someone from a lower caste is married to an upper caste person, he/she has to convert to upper-caste. This is not an effective way to promote social unity. Odisha Government needs to take more initiatives to bring unity and reduce untouchability in the state. The idea of Sumangal is not going to reduce honour killing crimes because there is a lack of social justice. The first virtue of a friendly society is justice, which Dalits are denied by the system," Sanjaya Suna, Odisha based Social Justice activist shared his insights with Madhyamam.
On the same day, the CM also launched another digital initiative called the Odisha State Scholarship Portal to help eligible students transparently avail benefits of scholarship programs. 11 lakhs students to get benefit from the service, claims the government.