Govt’s goof-up ‘stigmatizes’ poor girls in Kashmir

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Srinagar: In a major goof-up, the state government had uploaded the details of financially downtrodden Kashmiri girls, who had sought assistance for their marriage through a government scheme with the destitute saying that they got “stigmatized through this cheap publicity stunt.”
Official documents, a copy of which lies with Kashmir Observer, reveal that details of “unmarried poor girls”, who were identified during the survey under State Marriage Assistance Scheme of Social Welfare Department, were uploaded on a government website.
The beneficiaries were asked to contact the District Social Welfare Officer Srinagar for assistance. But no sooner the details were uploaded on the internet, the girls said they felt “embarrassed” as the content went viral in social circles in the Valley, with mischief-mongers having a field day.
“Our entire family felt embarrassed when some of our relatives and neighbors started calling us only to taunt us for having sought government assistance for marriage… Embarrassed, when we tried to pretend that it was not us, they said the entire details were available on the government websites,” said Shazia(name changed), adding “Our life is shattered, as if we had done a sin by seeking government assistance.” “Is being poor a sin or this government derived pleasure by exploiting our poverty?” said parents of another victim from old City, the Shaher-e-Khaas here.
Some of the victims, whose names figured in the list said they initially tried to meet Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti to narrate their woeful tale. “But we couldn’t get any appointment with her,” the destitute complained.
Senior National Conference leader MLA Habba Kadal Shamima Firdous while condemning the incident said marriage prospects of many such girls have got shattered due to his “deliberate act by the government.”
Shamima, who has remained a Chairperson Women Rights Commission in the past, said: “They(destitute) told me that their would-be in-laws have broken the engagement pleading that they don’t want to tie nuptial know in a family which seeks government fund for marriage.”
“The damage cannot be undone. This government is doing this all deliberately to challenge the credibility of female folk … Let she (Mehbooba) take all such funds for herself and her Nagpuri handlers but at least apologize before the poor girls,” Firdous said.
Women’s rights activist and another NC leader Sara Hayat Shah said: “It’s truly awful that the names have been publicly exposed. This shows how reluctant, Nagpur pleasing and useless the present government is.”
Explaining her point, she asked: “Sometime or the other; be it in public, in private, in the darkness of night or in the brightness of daylight, we all have problems. It’s an inherent part of life. But that does not mean all our problems are publicly exposed and discussed?”
Senior Peoples Democratic Party leader and Chairperson Women Rights Commission, Nayeema Mehjoor  said this should not have happened. “I don’t know about the matter but I’ll definitely look into it on priority,” Mehjoor said.
Despite repeated attempts, Minister for Social Welfare, Sajjad Gani Lone was not available for comments.  Director Social Welfare, Hashmat Ali Yatto however downplayed the matter. “There’s no such big issue. The list was removed from the website quickly,” Yattoo told Kashmir Observer.
He said basically High Court was hearing a case with regard to social welfare schemes for women where it was revealed that for the sake of transparency, the details of destitute were made public. “But the honorable High Court barred us from doing so and the list was instantly removed,” the Director said.
Hashmat insisted that the list was uploaded with good intention of brining in transparency in the system but that the same of removed from the portal on High Court directives. “There’s always a scope for perfectionism,” he said.

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