Gold has been an integral part of the Indian culture, particularly in south India. When it comes to Tamil Nadu, it assumes an even more important role, albeit political, as it has been a part of the state government’s welfare scheme since 2011.
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government, under the leadership of late J. Jayalalithaa, started a gold distribution scheme and till February 2021, 12,50,705 beneficiaries have been provided with 6,099.08 kg of gold, as per the budget documents.
Soon after becoming the Chief Minister in 2011, Jayalalithaa ordered distribution of a four-gram gold coin along with the marriage assistance of Rs 25,000 to poor girls and Rs 50,000 in the case of girls holding a diploma or degree. By her next term in 2016, the late leader enhanced the gold for ‘Thirumangalayam’ under the marriage assistance schemes to eight grams. Even though she passed away in December 2016, the party continued the scheme.
The AIADMK called the cash incentive a “visionary measure” as more incentive to diploma or degree holders had encouraged parents to ensure higher education of the girl. The government also said that this has helped in increasing the average age of marriage for women and, in turn, resulted in considerable improvement in the overall health of women. This also paved the way for their economic liberation.
Between 2011 and July 2016 under the gold and cash distribution schemes, 7,72,643 women were given Rs 2,537.74 crore in cash and gold coins worth Rs 786.64 crore for Thirumangalyam, the government data said.
Between 2016 and February 2021, the AIADMK government distributed gold worth Rs 1,004.41 crore and Rs 1,833.48 crore in cash, the budget documents claimed.
In total, under the 10 years rule of AIADMK, 12,50,705 beneficiaries have been provided with 6,099.08 kg of gold worth Rs 1,791.05 crore and Rs 4,371.22 crore as financial assistance, official figures say.
Political commentator Sumanth Raman explained that under the scheme, gold was given to the women from poor families for making Thirumangalyam or Mangalsutra. Such schemes allow poor to have dignified marriages. “Gold assistance to the girls from poor families allows them to have a dignified marriage and also gives them a sense of security,” he told News18.
In an official statement, the government said five marriage assistance schemes are being implemented in the State to help the daughters of poor parents, orphan girls, widows who remarry, widows’ daughter’s marriage and inter-caste couples.
“In most communities, it is a customary cultural requirement for a girl to wear ‘Thirumangalyam’ made of gold during marriage and the parents celebrate the marriage function according to their customs and cultural backgrounds. However, parents from economically weaker sections are not able to cope with the burden of expenses towards the marriage of their daughters. In order to help such parents and to encourage them to educate their daughters till the right age, marriage assistance schemes were introduced by the government,” the statement added.
Take a look at the annual fund allocation for the scheme by the government between 2011 and 2021 as provided in the budget statements.
2011-2012: Budgetary allocation of Rs 514 crore was made in the revised budget estimates 2011-2012. In the first year of the scheme, 69,892 poor families received gold coins and financial assistance to the extent of Rs 364.64 crore.
2012-13: For 2012-13, Rs 748.39 crore was kept for the marriage assistance scheme.
2013-14: Rs 750 crores was kept for cash and gold assistance in the budget estimates 2013-2014. At least, 1.7 lakh poor families benefited under this scheme in 2013-2014.
2014-15: Rs 751.09 crore was allocated for various marriage assistance schemes, out of which Rs 204 crore was for gold coins for making the Thirumangalyam and Rs 547.09 crore for cash assistance.
2015-16: In the budget estimates 2015-2016, Rs 703.16 crore was allocated for the scheme, out of which Rs 204 crore was for gold coins for making Thirumangalayam.
2016-17: In this interim budget, just before the 2016 Assembly polls, an amount of Rs 703 crore was provided for continuing the scheme.
2016-17: After the election, Jayalalithaa enhanced the gold for Thirumangalayam under the Marriage Assistance Schemes to eight grams. In the revised budget, Rs 703.16 crore was provided for the marriage assistance schemes.
Jayalalithaa passed away on December 5, 2016. After her death, O Panneerselvam became the Chief Minister between December 6, 2016 and February 15, 2017. From February 16, 2017, Edappadi K Palaniswami took charge of the State.
2017-18: In the budget estimates 2017-2018, Rs 723 crore was allocated for the marriage assistance schemes.
2018-19: Rs 724 crore was provided in the budget estimates for 2018-2019 for the schemes.
2019-20: Rs 726.32 crore was provided in the budget estimates 2019-2020.
Elections will be held in the State on April 6 and the counting will be done on May 2.