Should we call it a swaggering approach or dilly dallying tactics on the part of the Social Welfare Department or their sheer adamancy in not conducting fresh survey to bring thousands of left – out deserving poor girls under the purview of the State Marriage Assistance Scheme (SMAS) launched in 2015? This scheme has otherwise been much acclaimed and exalted but in fact, proves as on date, no less than a ruse for those deserving poor girls who could not get themselves identified under the ambit of the scheme. Strangely, there seems to be no end to such flagrant response shown by the Social Welfare Department, the Nodal Department for the said scheme, despite fixing of timelines by the State Government and clear cut orders from the State High Court.
The State Marriage Assistance Scheme (SMAS) is a social assistance scheme meant for those un- married identified girls of Jammu and Kashmir living below the poverty line who may not find themselves in a position to marry due to financial constraints. Such deserving cases, under the scheme, are entitled to receive one time financial assistance of Rs.25000 plus the cost of five grams of gold only for marriage purposes. However, large number of deserving poor girls remained out of the compass of the scheme during the identification process undertaken by the Government through District Development Commissioners. With the passage of the time it was felt to make the identification process more effective by building of foolproof fresh surveys. For this social and noble scheme, the Government directed all the District Social Welfare Officers to conduct fresh surveys.
It is a matter to be rued that it is more than a year now the Government issuing orders, the exercise has not been completed. It is unfortunate that nothing has happened despite the intervention by the State High Court which found flaws in the implementation of the scheme, particularly not only in respect of timelines for clearance of applications but also that large number of poor girls, under BPL category, were not incorporated in the list who were otherwise entitled. Accordingly, the Court directed the Government to conduct fresh surveys and dispose of the applications within a week’s time on receipt thereof otherwise no purpose worth the name would be served. It is a natural corollary that the requisite vigour and sensitivities accorded by the High Court to this noble social cause should have ensured in faster movement of things associated with the scheme but even the proverbial snail’s pace appears nowhere in sight.
The situation continues to remain as it is and as if this all was any less inane, the Government chose to mislead by stating in the State Legislature that survey was “almost complete” and that fresh lists were underway to bring more deserving girls under the ambit of the scheme as only a few days back, the concerned Minister, while chairing a review meeting put forth an entirely different version by saying that the survey would be completed by the end of March this year. Commissioner Secterary, Social Welfare Department Sajad Ahmed Khan too confirmed that fresh lists had not been prepared by the department.
It is beyond our comprehension as to the rationale behind making this issue quite vexatious which otherwise by its mission and aim is quite noble and benevolent. The Social Welfare Department must account for this colossal slackness in an issue with contours of a humane cause. This job, it is firmly believed, is not any difficult for them and to have been completed within the shortest period of time. Social Welfare Department is required to expedite the exercise of survey, identification of the eligible beneficiaries and expeditious disbursal of the amount to lend credence to this much talked about social scheme and not attempt, due to its absolute slackness, to put the eligible beneficiaries on tenterhooks, especially in deference to the directives of the State High Court. We shall be keenly watching the developments.