SRINAGAR: The J&K high court has directed the state government to conduct another survey to identify girls who are living Below Poverty Line (BPL) in state. Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Mohammad Magrey however asked the government that the exercise shall not be taken as an “excuse” for stopping grant of benefits which are being given to the identified girls under State Marriage Assistance Scheme (SMAS) and others including Hunar, a skill development programme for the poor girls.
The direction by the court followed submission by a girl who identified herself as Salma, submitting that the earlier survey conducted by the state and its authorities was not foolproof. She produced an application giving particulars of many girls who have not been identified in the category to be entitled for the benefits.
“The respondent-state and its authorities are directed to conduct another survey, as well, to identify the girls who are living below poverty line. This exercise shall not be taken as an excuse for stopping grant of benefits which are being given to the identified girls,” the court said.
Under SMAS, an eligible poor girl beneficiary will be entitled to a one-time financial assistance of Rs 25,000 and five grams of gold from district social welfare officers (DSWOs).
It also directed the authorities to comply with earlier directions and give benefits to the already identified girls. “Report about fresh survey be also filed before the next date (of hearing in the PIL),” the court said.
In a compliance report filed in November last year, Social Welfare Department informed the court that Rs. 596.35 lakhs were sanctioned in favour of 1495 candidates (poor girls). It is also stated that 951 cases have been received from various sanctioning authorities under SMAS and are under process for disbursement of financial assistance to the extent of Rs. 378.60 lakhs.
The court also granted state authorities six weeks time to file compliance report regarding the compliance of previous orders. “In default, commissioner secretary to government Social Welfare Department to appear in person before the court on next date,” the court added.
On last date of hearing, the Court had directed SWD to provide benefits of SMAS to poor girls within “short span”.
It had also directed government through chief secretary to ensure availability of requisite funds to the Secretary SWD.