Few are aware of the state govt’s scheme
The Karnataka government’s scheme to promote remarriage of scheduled caste widows has received a poor response in Bengaluru Urban and Rural districts since 2018.
Official data show that on an average two applications have been filed every year under the scheme, called Incentive for Scheduled Caste Widow Remarriage. The government pays Rs 3 lakh to a woman who remarries under the scheme.
As per statistics of the Social Welfare Department, Bengaluru Urban and Rural districts have received no applications for the year 2021-22. They receivedthree applications each during 2020-21.
An official from the department informed The Observer that urban applications are often not processed as they do not meet the income and age conditions. Women in the 18-40 age group are eligible to apply. The department is conducting regular programmes to raise awareness among SC widows about the scheme, but people from remote villages do not know about it.
N.B. Jayaprakash, founder of the Parihaar Foundation, an NGO that promotes the welfare of widows, said: “Incentives are offered only for SC remarriage cases. There are no caste or religious restrictions for the spouse, but the widow should be an SC. In most cases, the marriage remains discreet. Widow remarriage happens in a closed atmosphere with little publicity. Such couples do not aspire for any incentives fearing that the event might be recorded or documented.”
Manjula from Mysuru, a mother of two who lost her husband to Covid-19,said that being a widow from a city, she is free to consider remarriage;young rural widows lack this freedom. She runs a gym to make a living.
Gundapa Devikeri, a professor at the Department of Social Work in Bangalore North University, said marrying a widow brings a bad name to the man’s family as people think he is incapable of finding a good wife. The groom’s family is apprehensive of how society will react to the union. Even if the government raises the incentive to Rs 10 lakh, few widows will benefit from the incentive because there are no men ready to marry them.
The incentive is given in the first year of marriage.
Kalaburagi district received 21 applications in 2020 and has got 18 in 2021 so far, the highest among all districts, the official at the Social Welfare Department shared.Child marriages are common in the district, leading to a high number of young widows.
Jayaprakash said: “As per the records, Karnataka has approximately 30,00,000 widows.”As per the 2011 census, the scheduled caste population in Bengaluru Rural and Urban districts stood at 2.13 lakh.
Shivappa Arivu, founder of Arivu Bharata, a forum for widowremarriage based in Kolar, said:“The scheme is not known to many as it lacks in the necessary advertisement by the government”. Asked about the condition of rural widows,he added: “Very few are bothered about their delicate social position.”
According to Demographic Research, an open-access journal of population sciences,7.4 per cent of Indian women were widows and 1.8 per cent of Indian men were widowers in 2011. This disparity of numbers reflects the taboo associated with widow remarriage. Strict social norms such as the seclusion of widows exist in the upper castes, the study says. On the other hand, lower caste widows are more likely to be wage earners after the death of their husbands.
Arivu said any deviation from the cultural norms leads to a widow being accused of being immoraland sometimes even responsible for her husband’s death.
With stigma against widowremarriage still prevailing in society, and few widows being aware of the scheme, the scheme has been a slow starter.