New Delhi: In a step that seeks to put the education of girl child before child marriage, Assam government on Wednesday announced that it will gift 10 grams of gold to every adult bride, if she has studied at least up to class 10 and her marriage is registered.

State Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said move, launched as part of the ‘Arundhati Gold Scheme’, is set to cost the state government’s exchequer around Rs 800 crores per annum. It will commence from January 1, 2020.

The state Finance Minister also said that out of nearly 3 lakh marriages taking place in Assam every year, only about 50,000 are registered legally.

However, there are also a few conditions to be kept in mind to avail th benefit, Sarma said.

“We will give every girl one tola (10 grams) of gold during her marriage, provided the marriage is registered. Our focus is not to get votes by giving gold, but to get the marriages registered,” Sarma stated while addressing a press conference in Guwahati adding that the annual family income of the bride has to be less than Rs 5 lakh to avail the benefit.

He clarified that the scheme will be available only in case of the first marriage of the girl and it has to be registered under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

“The scheme has some riders like the girl has to be at least 18 years of age and the boy 21 years. This will also stop child marriage. Besides, the girl has to pass matric exams (class 10 board exam) to avail the scheme. This will also emphasise on girls’ education,” the minister elaborated.

“This is a social and secular scheme. It is population centred and will help in education awareness, women empowerment and prohibition of child marriages in the state,” he said.

The only drawback to the scheme, as Sarma highlighted, is that it excludes girls from the tea garden communities and Adivasis as the Centre and state government has not been able to set up high schools in such places.

“We hope that after the scheme is launched, we will be able to increase the registration to 2-2.5 lakh. If that happens, then we will see an outgo of around Rs 800 crore per annum,” Sarma said.

Sarma further said that the gold will not be handed in physical form. “After registration and verification, we will deposit Rs 30,000 in her bank account. Then she has to submit the receipt of the gold purchase. This amount cannot be used for other purposes,” he said.

As a result, the marriage registration will take place in circle offices too besides the existing facilities at the offices of deputy commissioners.