The Madhya Pradesh government has asked over 200 women in Dindori district to take pregnancy tests for checking their eligibility for a scheme that provides a grant of Rs 55,000 to couples, Opposition Congress alleged on Sunday.

The scheme being questioned is the Mukhyamantri Kanyadan Yojana under which the government gives Rs 49,000 to each woman eligible for marriage and spends another Rs 6,000 on each couple for arranging a mass marriage ceremony.

The pregnancy tests were allegedly conducted ahead of a mass marriage ceremony in a town in Dindori on Saturday, reported The Indian Express. A total of 219 women from Scheduled Tribes, Schedule Castes and Other Backward Classes families participated in the mass marriage ceremony, conducted in the presence of local leaders and officials, reported IANS.

On Sunday, Congress MLA from Dindori Omkar Singh Markam asked the state government to specify if it has set some eligibility criteria for those who want to take the benefits of the scheme. “The youth in this poor region of the state are being humiliated through such tests and this is deplorable,” Markam said.

The politician also alleged that four women whose pregnancy tests came out positive were not given benefits under the scheme, reported The Indian Express.

This is a violation of their basic rights and an invasion of their privacy,” he told the newspaper. “I will raise this issue before the chief minister as well as the prime minister.”

Former Chief Minister and Congress leader Kamal Nath also criticised the state administration for conducting the pregnancy tests.

“If this news is true, then on whose orders was this gross insult done to the daughters of Madhya Pradesh,” Nath said on Sunday. “Do the daughters of the poor and tribal communities have no dignity in the eyes of the chief minister.”

The senior Congress leader demanded a high-level inquiry into the matter.

“This is not only a matter of pregnancy test, but also of a malicious attitude towards women,” he said.

However, BJP district chief Avadh Raj Bilaiya denied the allegations and said that the tests were done to check for health issues such as sickle cell anaemia, reported The Indian Express. He also said that few women, who were found pregnant during the medical test, were assumed to be married and so were not provided with the benefits.

Dindori District Collector Vikas Mishra said that the pregnancy tests were conducted on five women after they said that they had missed their menstruation.

“In our district, sickle cell anaemia is a major disease and there are Government of India guidelines for doing blood tests,” Mishra told The Indian Express.

He added: “So, whenever we do such marriages, we do this test. In this case, when the tests were being done, five women said they had missed their periods. Then, the doctor did a urine test, that is, a pregnancy test, and in all five cases the test was positive, after which the women said they were already married.”