All inter-caste couples where one of the spouses is a Dalit can now get a government incentive after their marriage, irrespective of their total annual income, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday. Till now, the scheme – in place since 2013 – was applicable only for couples with a total annual income of Rs 5 lakh or lower.

Such couples get a one-time incentive of Rs 2.5 lakh from the Centre to “appreciate the socially bold step” and to help them “settle down in the initial phase of their married life”. The scheme targets at least 500 such marriages each year, though it has not crossed 100 in any year so far.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has asked states to scrap the income ceiling and make it mandatory for the couples to submit their Aadhaar numbers and bank account details.

“Many states that have similar schemes do not have an income limit, so the Centre, too, decided it to remove it,” a ministry official was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

Not meeting targets

The Dr Ambedkar Scheme for Social Integration through Inter-Caste Marriages has not met its targets in any year since its launch in 2013. Five couples got the incentive in 2014-’15, followed by 72 the next year. In 2016-’17, only 45 of the 736 applications were approved. This year, the ministry received 409 applications, of which the incentive was approved for 74 couples.

Officials said the low approval rate was because the couples do not meet all the conditions, which include the registration of the marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act and a recommendation from an MP, MLA or district collector.