Limit of 100 couples per mass marriage event among steps to check fraud, says UP minister

PTI, Feb 11, 2024, 12:30 PM IST

At most 100 marriages can be solemnised in any event organised under the Chief Minister’s Mass Marriage Scheme , Uttar Pradesh Social Welfare Minister Asim Arun said.

He added that the marriage registrations will be done at the venue itself with the newly-wed couple being provided a certificate and photograph right after the ceremony.

These steps by the state government come in the wake of a recent case of fraud that took place in a mass marriage ceremony in Ballia district, where 240 ineligible people enrolled themselves to derive benefits of the ‘ Mukhyamantri Samoohik Vivaah Yojana ‘.

It is alleged that people, who were already married, were married again during the programme. Police have so far arrested 16 people, including officers of the Social Welfare department, for arranging these marriages.

Speaking to PTI on Saturday, Arun said, ”Now, no more than 100 marriages will be conducted in normal mass marriage programmes. If a minister or any other special guest is coming to attend such a programme and the District Magistrate is personally present in that programme, then permission will be given to conduct more than 100 marriages.” ”Apart from this, registration of every marriage will now be done at the venue itself and the marriage certificate will also be issued immediately. Photographs of the bride and groom will be taken and all the rituals and rites will be completed and recorded on the computer,” he said. ”The details of each newly married couple will be linked to DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) and Aadhaar ,” the minister added.

Arun , also a former IPS officer, said that to prevent irregularities in the mass marriages, the village secretary ( gram sachiv ) and lekhpal at the local level will be given the responsibility to check whether a man and woman availing the scheme are already married.

He pointed out that according to the current rule, the responsibility of verification lies with the block level officers. ”The state government is now considering getting a certain percentage of them re-verified from the District Magistrate ‘s office and the Deputy Director of Social Welfare after verification from the block level. Directorate level officers of the Social Welfare department will also be given the responsibility of some random verification. Such points have been included in the manual so that irregularities can be prevented at all costs,” he said.

The issue of irregularities in the mass marriage programme in Ballia also echoed during the Budget session of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly on February 9, with Lalji Verma of Samajwadi Party raising this issue in the House .

Responding to this, the social welfare minister said in the House the purpose of the scheme is to ensure that the marriage of the daughter of any family should be held with pomp and show. Arun added that the Yogi Adityanath government is working to ”effectively tackle the corrupt people”.

”Three officers have also been arrested in the Ballia case. Strictest action will be taken against any corrupt person, whether he is an officer or a broker,” he had said.

”While on one hand, the thief has been caught, on the other hand the locks (the entire system) have also been strengthened,” the minister had added.

Director of Social Welfare Department Kumar Prashant told PTI, ”Thousands of couples were getting married every year under the mass marriage scheme and there were no reports of any irregularities. But after receiving complaints of such irregularities in Ballia , the department is now closely investigating these events in every district.” ”Arrangements have been made for screening and thorough investigation of every case at multiple levels,” Prashant added.

In the Ballia event held at Maniyar Inter College on January 25, about 537 marriages took place, of which irregularities were found in 240 marriages. So far 16 people have been arrested for fraud and forgery in arranging the marriages, while five government employees of various departments, including the Social Welfare Department, have also been suspended. According to information shared by the Social Welfare Department, from the operational year of the ‘ Mukhyamantri Samoohik Vivaah Yojana ‘ in 2017-18 to the financial year 2022-23, a total of 2,77,292 mass marriages have been conducted, which includes 27,782 couples from the minority category; 78,300 from Other Backward Classes; 1,50,357 from Scheduled Caste/Tribe and 10,353 couples from the general category.

A total of 1,00,874 marriages were solemnised under the scheme in in 2022-2023. So far this year, mass marriages of 66,673 couples have been conducted. A target of about 1.10 lakh marriages has been set for 2023-24, the department said.

Under this scheme, an assistance amount of Rs 35 ,000 is transferred to the woman’s account, additionally Rs 10,000 is spent on the materials required for the marriage ceremony like clothes, toe rings, anklets, utensils, etc, according to the information received from the department.

For organising the event, Rs 6 ,000 per couple is spent on food, pandal, furniture, drinking water, lighting and other necessary arrangements. A couple incurs a total expenditure of Rs 51 ,000, it added.

Arun said that following the fraud case in Ballia , ”we have tightened the system but have not imposed any kind of ban on such programmes in any district. The mass marriages are now being organised only after thorough investigation and strict monitoring”.

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