Dilip Kolekar, 22, from Mundapada, a tribal village at Gorai, tied the knot with Sharda a year ago. The couple had hoped that the state government’s ‘wedding gift’ — an aid of Rs10, 000 sanctioned by the tribal development department to every newly-wed couple — would reach them soon. But it did not. They are still running pillar-to-post to get the benefit.
Like the Kolekars, other couples from tribal villages in the city, too, are waiting for the promised amount. They blame the authorities who keep asking for documents like caste certificate, marriage certificate and ration card, which they do not have.
“We do not have ration cards. Where do we get caste certificates and the other documents from,” Kolekar, a fisherman by profession, said.
Earlier, the state’s tribal development department used to give every newly-wed adivasi couple a gold mangalsutra and utensils. But after some couples alleged that they had been given gold-plated mangalsutras and poor quality utensils, the department, under pressure from NGOs, decided to give each couple Rs10, 000 in cash.
“The tribal welfare department started giving away the cash about a year ago,” Vitthal Lad of Jaag, an NGO working for the tribals, said.
He said these couples marry according to the adivasi customs, with five old women from the tribe presiding over the wedding. “They do not distribute any wedding card, nor do they register their marriages. So, how can they provide the documents the authorities are asking for,” Lad asked. He said there was no such problem in the adivasi villages in rural Maharashtra. There the couples get the money without providing any document.
Project officer MH Wadu of the tribal development department said that the couples had to fill up a form and open a joint bank account so that the payment could be made to them by cheque. “We are not holding back any payment. They should give us the required documents and take the money,” Wadu said.
The tribals said it was impossible for them to open bank accounts. “Banks do not entertain us as we do not have the necessary documents,” Tukaram Bhoir, a tribal from Chhota Dongri village at Gorai, said.