Cash Incentives and Social Change

I came across this news report today and found it quite thought-provoking.

Last month the Government of Nepal announced a scheme to pay cash incentives to men for marrying widows. “Nepal’s center-left coalition announced a plan last month to pay men the equivalent of $650 for marrying widows, angering the widows.”

Last Monday, “women shouting slogans such as “You can’t sell your mother,” and “We don’t want government dowries,” marched toward a government complex that houses the prime minister’s office.”

The government’s view is that the incentives will help widows who face social discrimination.

Activists say that it will not help widows, as men would marry them for the money and later abandon them. In their opinion, instead of such ‘incentives’, the government should give education facilities and jobs to widows.

In India, in February this year , the Government of India announced ‘The Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme’, which proposes to provide a monthly pension of Rs. 200/- to poor widows in the age group of 40-64 years.

There is also a proposal “to give priority to young widows (in 18-40 age group) in admission to industrial training institutes (ITIs), Women ITIs and National Regional ITIs with a view to empowering them“.

Of course, controversies have arisen over the question of upper age limit and the definition of who is destitute enough.

However, this scheme still seems to be better that the cash incentive scheme of the Nepal Government.

Of course, that is not to say that the Indian Government does not float these type of cash incentive schemes.

The Central government supports monetary incentives to popularise inter-caste marriages. There have been protests that such schemes lead to a situation where marriages become merely business transactions.

The State of Haryana last year declared a scheme according to which couples opting for an inter-caste marriage “will be given an incentive of Rs. 50,000/-“.

Among the first to receive the award are Veer Singh and Renu of Bachod village in Mahendargarh district, Deputy Commissioner, Narnaul Amneet P. Kumar said.”

In Orissa State also, there has been a similar incentive for inter-caste marriages for past few years. Two years ago, the incentive was increased from the existing Rs. 10,000/- to Rs. 50,000/-.

Are such schemes to give monetary incentives really useful as tools to bring about social change?

Or are they merely useful as measures to gain popularity for the government currently in power?

What do you think?



  1. More than cash the supports should be given to that couple providing social security and stand by them when they may experience any resistance from the conventions and social bans. Money may be wrongly utilised and translated defeating the soul purpose of such marriage. When two such persons marry they normally are broad minded and do not do it for any finacial gain.


  2. Where are the jobs to be given in Nepal? Why do so many Nepalese come to India each year? In an underdeveloped, mountainous country like Nepal, cash incentive is a practical option. Sure, there will be cases of misuse. But then that will happen no mater what scheme you put in place. The government needs to be lauded for showing this concern for widows.


  3. The widows in Nepal have the guts to protest over this blatantly opportunistic rule, which is almost like an invitation-to-misuse. Its like a government subsidy for getting a free servant in the house, given the patriarchal system. The money should be going to the woman.We, of course , do so many things, or should I say, everything, with an eye on the vote bank. While widows , with an upper age limit , put inexplicably at 64, get Rs 200 a month, an almost always corrupt politician who is an MP here, gets a pension of 2,500 a month, even if he has graced the august portals for 10 days as an MP, and done nothing but dozed in the back benches all the time. (And got paid a daily honorarium of rs 400 for that). Post-him, his family gets a family pension of 1000 a month. For what ?And isnt it strange that states have politicians changing religions at the drop of a hat and marrying n times, and these same states announce incentives for interreligious marriages. Our problem is that while intentions are noble most of the time, implementation is disastrous , and is an invitation for misuse of the worst type. I feel instead of one time lump incentives, there should be long term repeating incentive for the woman, over time. In that sense the incentive for training in ITI's makes better sense. Something, like the Maharashtra Government's incentive of free education for girls also sounds good, even if it spurs even 20% of the parents to send the girls to school.


  4. There is populism on the one hand and a genuine problem to dea with on the other. Caught inbetween is suffering. The widow pension scheme is an example. It does seem populistic. And prone to misuse. There is a chord that centers around doing something for a class of society that is suffering. many a times such schemes and measures get misused. And in my opinion, the effectiveness of such schemes lies in implementation and blocking of loopholes. Those are tall asks indeed.


  5. The money should not be given to the man. Wouldn't it be better to provide jobs for the women and make them financially independent? Then they are also in a better position to decide if they want to marry again or stay single. And do inter-caste marriages require incentives at all? I think there is a change in that direction. In the rural areas it may take longer and the incentives may not help there. There could only be misuse. It has to be a change in the mindset.


  6. Pradip Biswas– At least in the urban areas, inter-caste marriages are becoming more commonplace. In those cases giving or not giving monetary incentives would make no difference, I suppose.There are no legal restrictions on inter-case marriages in India,so if a couple wants to marry they would have the protection of the law- at least in theory.Vinodji– If, as you say, jobs are scarce in Nepal, and cash incentive is the best option- then why can the cash assistance not be given to the widow herself?Why should it be an incentive for a man to marry the widow? Why should she not receive assistance without being obliged to remarry?


  7. Ugich Konitari– I agree with you re: the situation in the upper age of 64 in the Feb. 2009 proposal- I think the rationale is that at the age of 65 the widow would be eligible for 'old age pension' and could not receive pensions from two schemes at the same time.I agree totally that the implementation of any scheme is disastrous.


  8. Kavi– I really admire the way you manage to look at both sides of any problem.:)"the effectiveness of such schemes lies in implementation and blocking of loopholes."– I agree.Radha"The money should not be given to the man. Wouldn't it be better to provide jobs for the women and make them financially independent?"-my thoughts exactly!And yes, I agree that monetary inventives for inter-caste marriages are not of much use. The mind-set must change.


  9. Manju, parts of Nepal and even India that we are talking about are still centuries behind socially. What appears logical to us, and is too, does not work in societies which are on a different page altogether. It wasn't too long ago, for example, that Bengali widows were tonsured and sent to Vrindavan to spend the rest of their lives there in destitution with other widows. Evidently in some parts of Bengal this practice is still being followed because not too old widows can be found there even today.In short, in such societies women do not have any identity other being wives and mothers. Widows suffer a terrible fate. Marrying them is taboo. They have no life. Seen in that social context, re-marriage for a widow means that she gets a new life and is rehabilitated in society. That is why, giving her money to keep living as a widow in that setting will mean little for her.


  10. Vinodji– My opinion is that if the situation is as you say- then the government should take the responsibility of the widows upon itself. Govt.-run shelters/homes for destitute widows should be established.But I feel they should not be forced to remarry- for that is what a cash incentive to any man marrying a widow would mean.


  11. Manju, what can the government do when people live in small villages up in the mountains, some of which can be reached only by foot, and have societies that are quite closed? Pulling widows out of there and putting them into impersonal shelters in faraway places might not be the ideal solution in those parts.As to marrying, it is not widows who are being forced to marry; it is men who are being "motivated" to marry them, against long established social norms. I know it sounds rather repulsive, but in that environment that is perhaps one sure way of bringing about social change…it will help widow re-marriage become widely acceptable in those villages.


  12. Just one question:"Does the cash actually reach the people who it is intended for and do widows get jobs?"If the answer is yes, then it is worthwhile debating which is better…


  13. Anju– Very possible. The government seems to think that cash handouts are the answer to everything!Sraboney– Good question!But we could not discuss any government schemes in India, if we only discussed schemes where the benefits actually reached the intended benefactees!


  14. I will support this monetary given by the govt.. for anything to become practice it must be encouraged.. anything other than money didnt satisfies the people now 😦 for nepal govt's decision I couldn't decide… as they fear it may go wrong also


  15. This is a very good subject, Manju.I too am not for remarriage of the widows. If the man who wants to marry her, for her own sake, is different from marrying her to give her a life or just for getting the Esp. during second marriage, the couple should be happy to marry each other. Instead, the govt. can give priority in job allocation, for the person who marrries a widow.Our Govt.'s decision to 'give priority to young widows (in 18-40 age group) in admission to industrial training institutes (ITIs), Women ITIs and National Regional ITIs with a view to empowering them' is the best solution. But, here, the girl should be 'allowed' to go to school/college, to study further.Pension for the widows – Rs.200/- is not money at all. Women who cross 40 years, might be under permanent medication and the pension amount should be at least Rs.500/-, so that it will cover the cost of the medicine. In the end, whatever scheme, the govt. announces, should reach the widows, without any 'mis'management of the funds.Priority should be to give them education and later a job, which will take care of their expenses, so that they will not be a burden to anyone.


  16. Kanagu– Do you mean monetary incentives for inter-caste marriages? Well, in some cases couples marrying partners of a different caste do have financial difficulties because they may be cut off from their families. So I suppose this govt. assistance would help them.Sandhya– Yes, I agree. In fact, I think with regard to any scheme to assist people from any section of society, the emphasis should be on empowering them and not just giving handouts.BTW- I have not been able to open your blogpage to read your latest post.:(


  17. Freebies will not be of any help in the long run, isn't it, Manju?I don't know why my page is not opening. Maybe the page is heavy with photos and a small video clip (went overboard with the birds!). I don't know much technicalities. Any idea about what I can do about this?


  18. Hello Manju,Nice discussion going on here…In a country like there is widespread under development and as Vinod says population is spread far and wide in remote locations. The male population has to migrate in search of livelihood for most months in a year. Either they seek fortunes outside Nepal or they are involved in the tourism, trekking and mountaineering activities.The society is also quite rigid and widows would be looked down upon, unfortunately though.In the absence of many job opportunities for women and remote possibility of them re-locating post widowhood, this measure seems one of the ways out. Ofcourse, any such moves are fraught with dangers of mis-use. However, even one widow rehabilitated in a village is one problem less at the ground level.


  19. With any new policy there is going to be some loopholes and controversy attached to it. These schemes do seem good but I doubt in reality how many will actually benefit from it.I think this is better than the money offered by Churches to convert and participate in group marraiges conducted by missionaries in remote villages.


  20. Mavin– It still seems very unfair to me that a widow would have to remarry to get any benefits (and those too, indirectly through her new husband). I do agree, though that the social situation must be very different from here in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai.I'm glad you like the new look of the blog.Solilo– Yes, any new govt. scheme takes time to work properly.The schemes to give incentives for inter-caste marriages may help as it is likely that the couple has no assistance from relatives.I do not like the govt. of Nepal's scheme because it does not directly give benefits to the widows.


  21. that 200 rs will be whisked away by the relatives for sure saying that it is a price for the food and accommodation.but helping the widows to stand on their feet sounds sensible, but why do i read between the lines that it is not as simple as i read


  22. Anrosh– Yes, the cash will probably be taken by the relatives. In any case Rs. 200/- is such a negligible amount.I guess nothing is simple. In an ideal world, parents would make sure that their daughters have the capacity to earn a living if necessary, before they marry them off.


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