While 'khap panchayats' (caste councils) in Haryana continue to
frown on inter-caste and sub-caste marriages and punish those who
do so, marrying outside one's caste is ever so profitable in
neighbouring Himachal Pradesh - it'll get couples all of
To prompt young men and women to break the caste barrier, the
cabinet headed by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has enhanced the
inter-caste marriage incentive from Rs.25,000 to Rs.75,000. It's
given to couples where one of the spouses belongs to a Scheduled
"We have seen in the past few years that the cash incentive of
Rs.25,000 was not encouraging too many couples. So we have decided
to make it lucrative by doubling its amount," Special Secretary
(Social Justice and Empowerment) M.P. Sood told IANS.
Departmental records show that only 1,113 inter-caste marriages
materialised in the past four years.
In 2012-13, 277 couples got the incentive, 304 in 2011-12, 300 in
2010-11 and 232 in 2009-10.
The Himachal Pradesh government introduced the scheme in 1994.
"Now, we are expecting more and more young couples, especially
women, will come forward to break the caste barrier," Sood added.
Newlywed Shimla-based Aneesh and his wife Shweta believe that the
choice is for the man and the woman to make. Aneesh, a handsome
banker, belongs to a lower caste, while Shweta is a high-caste
"It's you who spends your whole life with the partner, not your
parents. Your decision is final," Aneesh said.
"In our case too, we convinced our parents and finally they
agreed. But we were lucky as many still get threatened or even
murdered for this," Shweta added.
Rameshwar Sharma, additional director of the social justice and
empowerment department, said the state is expanding opportunities
for the Scheduled Castes, who constitute 24.72 percent of state's
"Promoting inter-caste marriage is just one step in destroying the
caste system," he added.
The Supreme Court in 2011 held that inter-caste marriages are in
the national interest.
Justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra said: "The caste
system is a curse on the nation and the sooner it is destroyed the
better. In fact, it is dividing the nation at a time when we have
to be united to face the challenges.
"Inter-caste marriages are, in fact, in national interest as they
will result in destroying the caste system," the court added.
The court held that diktats by the "khap panchayats" aimed at
coercing or committing atrocities on young men and women who wish
to marry inter-caste/religion were illegal and should be stamped
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)