Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, while tabling the state budget on February 6, said that the state government will provide ‘one tola’ gold to brides belonging to all weaker sections of the state.
The BJP-led government in Assam has earmarked Rs 300 crore for the Arundhati scheme. Benefits under the scheme can be availed upon formal registration of marriages under Special Marriage (Assam) Rules, 1954. It will be limited to only economically weaker sections, whose annual income is below Rs 5 lakh.
Calling the Arundhati scheme as regressive, many students from Gauhati University were not impressed with the budget offering.
Priyanka Chakrabarty, a student of Gauhati University, said that the government should focus on higher education of girls instead of gifting gold. “The government should inspire the girls to be self-reliant. Gifting gold for marriage is very regressive. I am also not in favour of providing e-bikes to the girl students. The students should be given education loan and scholarships with proper guidance,” she said.
Among other announcements, the budget had provisions for introduction of a scheme to provide battery-operated ‘e-bikes’ to all girl students who secure first division marks in higher secondary examinations.
Subrat Dutta, a student of Mass Communication at Gauhati University, said, “It is totally a skewed politics and policies meant just to appease voters before elections. This is a state-sponsored dowry. Safety and security of women is the need of hour, not gold ornaments. Giving incentive for dowry-like policies is wrong.”
Dutta also mentioned that the budget has been designed in such way that it pleases every community so that protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill may mitigate.
Affan Khan, a student of History at Gauhati University, added that the earlier governments also announced similar doles but with time people understood that these are mere political propaganda. “We cannot foresee any positive implication of these schemes,” Khan said.
The students are of the opinion that the Arundhati scheme will only lead to promotion of dowry in the society. “Women nowadays want empowerment. The Arundhati scheme will promote the evil practice of dowry,” said Parashar Kalita. He also emphasized that it would be wise to provide free education than to use taxpayers’ money to promote a dowry-like culture in Assam. “Rather the government could have increased the scholarships,” he added.
“Keeping an eye on the legal age of both the girl as well as the boy, the Arundhati scheme sounds good. But the irony lies in the gold. The government should have focused more on the empowerment of the bride rather than ‘one tola gold’. The practice itself is harmful because indirectly it is promoting the dowry culture. Now, everyone is going to expect a bride with gold from government,” said Erashree Talukdar of Women Studies department, Gauhati University.