The Karnataka government has introduced two schemes to provide monetary aid to Brahmin brides who hail from the economically weaker sections, The Print reported on Thursday. Political parties believe that Brahmins constitute around 3% to 5% of Karnataka’s voter base.

According to the Karnataka State Brahmin Development Board, under the “Arundhati” scheme, families of Brahmin brides will get Rs 25,000. Under the “Maitreyi” scheme, they will receive Rs 3 lakh if the woman marries a priest in the state. The Brahmin board has already identified 500 women for the Arundhati scheme and another 25 for Maitreyi.

The board’s chairperson HS Sachidananda Murthy listed a few more criteria. “Brahmins who come from economically backward sections of society will be eligible,” he said. “Other conditions include that not only should the bride be from the Brahmin community, it should be her first marriage. The married couple will also have to give an undertaking that they would remain married for a specified period of time.”

Murthy said the board has set some restrictions on the beneficiaries of the schemes. “The family has to produce a certificate proving they are from the economically backward class,” he told The News Minute. “Moreover, they have to also belong to the [Brahmin] community.”

The two schemes have elicited strong reactions from the Opposition, who have called the schemes regressive. “Marriage is a personal choice and incentivising certain types of marriages over others is regressive and anti-women,” said YB Srivatsa, the National Campaign Head for Youth wing of Congress. “Why can’t they give loans for Brahmin women entrepreneurs? Why not fund the education of poor Brahmin girls?”

Murthy, however, defended the schemes, saying they were meant to uplift people, especially priests. “They have a difficult time surviving because of work uncertainty,” he added. “They can use the money we give and set up a small business to earn their living.”

The Brahmin board was set up by the BS Yediyurappa-led government in July, after the Centre introduced the Economically Weaker Sections reservation for upper castes. The government has also launched a scheme in which Rs 500 a month will be offered to nearly 4,000 individuals who want to be trained in puja rituals and evening prayers.

These schemes are being introduced at a time when the state is reeling under financial pressure, due to the coronavirus pandemic as well as damage due to floods. In December, Yediyurappa had said that the government was expected to face a revenue shortage of Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 crore in 2020-2021.