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Selfies in toilets for ₹51,000 govt aid leaves grooms embarrassed in M.P.

Grooms take a selfie with their toilets.

Grooms take a selfie with their toilets.   | Photo Credit: A.M. Faruqui

Only proving that her husband-to-be has a toilet at home can fetch a woman support under scheme

An awkward moment befell 64 bridegrooms ahead of the auspicious evening in Bhopal on Thursday. The government scheme that facilitated their mass wedding fashioned them in another peculiar way: selfies of grooms-to-be standing inside toilets as proofs attached with application forms.

Only proving that her husband-to-be has a toilet at home can fetch a woman, from an economically deprived background, ₹51,000 as support under the Mukhya Mantri Kanya Vivah/Nikah Scheme. And now, the unwritten norm hitherto prevalent in rural areas of taking the selfies has forayed into a city where the civic body is supposed to physically verify toilets.

“I don’t even take my phone inside toilets,” said Abid Khan*, 23, a resident of a slum near the State Secretariat. “It wasn’t a good feeling to take a photograph inside a toilet, just to be eligible for a wedding.”

The scheme, launched by the BJP government in 2013, contains the toilet clause. But they asked for photographs only from rural areas, said corporator and Congress leader Rafiq Qureshi, organiser of the wedding — the third mass wedding in a year ahead of the local body elections next year.

“It’s nowhere in the rules, but the practice is being adopted by cities now. What is still being followed was set as a norm by the previous government,” he said. In villages, the Chief Medical Officer has to verify toilets, in cities, ward incharges have to do the job.

Brothers Riyaz Ali*, 27, and Samir Ali*, 23, both mechanics, have three toilets back home. “When I heard the condition the first time, I was shocked and embarrassed at the same time,” said Mr. Riyaz.

“Officials are shying away from their duty to verify toilets themselves. This is like our pre-wedding photoshoot,” he chuckled.

“What is the point of asking for photographs when Bhopal is the cleanest State capital? Isn’t it declared open defecation-free already?” asked Amjad Khan, member of an NGO, and in the organising team of a mass wedding for the fifth time. “There is not even a single basti (slum) without a toilet.”

Brides and grooms at the mass wedding.

Brides and grooms at the mass wedding.   | Photo Credit: A.M. Faruqui

Surrounded by friends, dabbing her cheeks with powder and adjusting her lehenga’s hood, Fatima Siddiqui, 22, is overwrought. She wants to look her best, not just before her family — scores of guests including families, friends of 64 couples are attending the wedding outside the Central Library. “Isn’t the photograph of a toilet in use a good sign for us? There is nothing wrong with it,” she said.

At the entrance of the library’s ground, a toilet wagon — having three toilets with broken seats, no water supply and wobbly, shattered doors — was stationed by the Bhopal Municipal Corporation for guests. The civic body, the implementing agency of the scheme here, had earlier put out the mandatory condition.

The benefit of ₹43,000 is transferred to the bank account of the woman, who also receives ₹5,000 worth household items and ₹3,000 for the wedding. A day into government, the Congress increased the assistance from ₹28,000 to ₹51,000, which led to a flurry of applications.

Meanwhile, Minister for Urban Development and Housing Jaivardhan Singh has told reporters the condition will be looked into and rolled back to not cause further embarrassment for grooms-to-be.

(*Names changed to protect privacy)

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 5:42:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/selfies-in-toilets-for-51000-govt-aid-leaves-grooms-embarrassed-in-mp/article29657512.ece

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