When it comes to women empowerment Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and her BJP government in Rajasthan are simply unbeatable.
During the past four-and-half years, her government left no stone unturned to put the state on a fast development track. Apart from other things, it achieved the distinction of bringing out the state from the list of bimaru states. At the same time, being a woman herself, it is obvious on her part to give due weightage to women in the state, who were considered to be the most backward, when BJP came to power in December 2003. Much before the assembly elections, she undertook a six-month-long Parivartan Yatra of the state, which helped her strike a rapport with the masses. It was during this Yatra, she closely watched the pitiable condition of the women folks of the state.
Her government presented four successive budgets with several welfare and empowerment schemes for women. In the current year'sbudget, presented in the assembly in February, she announced a unique and ambitious scheme Bhamashah Financial Empowerment and Nari Samridhi Yojna. The scheme was mentioned briefly in her budget speech.
Soon after passing of the budget, she asked the finance and other related departments to chalk out the details and its speedy implementation. Many of her party and ministerial colleagues felt that incident of Jaipur serial bomb blasts and prolonged Gujjar agitation would delay the implementation of the scheme. But she told the official concerned not to deter by these happenings and continue to work on the scheme to meet the dead line.
In the first week of July the scheme took the final shape and she directed the top officials and district collectors, who are responsible for implementation of the scheme, to immediately start work on its implementation.
The scheme is focussed on to give independent financial powers to women. In most of the welfare and other such government schemes, head of the family, a man, serves as nodule, but under this scheme, women would be considered to be the head of the family as Smt Raje is of the considered opinion, that women always have more important role in running the family.
Under the scheme, about 50 lakh families belonging to BPL, SCs, STs and poor farmers would be benefited.
As per the scheme, government would provide a financial assistance of Rs 1500 each to a head woman of these families to open a bank account.
For this, government has allocated Rs 750 crore. Lack of modern banking facilities in the rural areas was a major hurdle in implementation of this scheme. A team of officials negotiated with a leading private bank and an IT company to solve their problem.
This bank, in collaboration with IT experts would put 15,000 ATM type kiosks in the rural areas. Smart Card would be issued to the entitled woman head of the family. Since, majority of women in rural areas are not familiar with Smart Card and ATM technology, youths, having knowledge of computer, would be appointed at these kiosks to help the women open, maintain and operate their accounts. Many experts feel that if the scheme was implemented in letter and spirit, it would revolutionarise the whole rural banking system in the state and would give unique upper hand to the women, who generally played second fiddle in financial matters of the family.
There are general tendencies that men take the command to run bank accounts and such other facilities, which are in the names of their wives. But software put in the system would ensure that it could be operated only by the woman, whose name account has been opened. A finger print technology has been evolved for this purpose. The idea behind this is financial command should remain in the hands of women.
The Smart Card and bank accounts would be of multipurpose nature. The wages earned through NREGS, could be credited in these accounts. In the long-run, Smart Card would replace BPL cards and could also be used as an ID and securing loans from the banks.
Since bank account stands in the name of woman, it would give a much-needed boost to their morale to have a better say when it comes to decide the financial matters within the family.