The task of the Narendra Modi led government is not limited to social empowerment or financial independence for women. It is to deliver both in adequate proportions, depending on the educational, social and economic position of the beneficiary.
Women have always been a significant part of society, but we chose to ignore their contribution. The societal-constructed concept of 'gender' has always obstructed women from showing their true potential in the public sphere and compelled them to be confined to the personal realm.
Under the able leadership of PM Narendra Modi, India has entrusted women with responsibilities that they can shoulder. There have been concerted efforts to ensure meaningful representation across professions and empowerment of women at the lower rung of the social strata.
Some of the major dedicated initiatives by the government for women are: One of the government's key priorities in Budget 2022-2023 is inclusive development. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman reinstated the importance of women-led development, one of the important pillars of inclusive development. Reinstating the power of Nari Shakti, the minister mentioned the initiatives launched by the Ministry of women and child development.
The four initiatives: Mission Shakti, Mission Vatsalya, Poshan 2.0 and Saksham Anganwadi, aim to revamp existing women and child-related schemes functioning in silos. An estimated Rs 20,105 crore has been allocated to Saksham Anganwadis and Poshan 2.0.
The new mission mode approach is bound to improve the current implementation challenges and poor visibility of the schemes. The focus will also be on improved quality of service, capacity building of functionaries at ground level, and avoiding duplication in initiatives.
Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY): Keeping in mind the necessity of women, the government has also included widows, single women, and women of the SCST category in this scheme. These women are being provided with a cheap and affordable home on a priority basis.
There are some tax benefits of buying a house in the name of a woman that includes a deduction of interest up to Rs 2 lakh every fiscal year if the home is self-occupied. If a husband and wife are the joint owners of a property and if the wife has a separate source of income, then they both can claim tax deductions individually. PMAY, which is now attached to the Credit-linked Subsidy Scheme (CLSS), lets women borrowers avail the advantages of interest subsidies on their home loans.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao: The scheme, launched by the Prime Minister in 2015 to bring behavioural change in the society towards birth and rights of a girl child, has resulted in increased awareness and sensitisation of the masses regarding the prevalence of gender bias and the role of community in eradicating it.
Promising trends of improvement in Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) have been observed at the National level. SRB has improved by 16 points from 918 (2014-15) to 934 (2019-20). The Gross Enrolment Ratio of girls in the schools at the secondary level has improved from 77.45 (2014-15) to 81.32 (2018-19-provisional figures).
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana: GoI launched PMUY on May 1, 2016, to safeguard the health of women and children by providing them with a clean cooking fuel–LPG.
During the launch of Ujjwala 1.0, a target was set to provide LPG connections to 5 crore women members of BPL households. The target was later revised to 8 Crore LPG connections. It was achieved in August 2019.
The implementation of PMUY has resulted in an increase in national LPG coverage from 61.9 per cent as of April 1, 2016, to 99.5 per cent as of January 1, 2021.
In the Union Budget for FY 21-22, provision for an additional one crore LPG connection under the PMUY scheme was announced. Along with a deposit-free LPG connection, Ujjwala 2.0 also provided the first refill and hot plate free of cost to the beneficiaries.
Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY): On August 28, 2014, PMJDY was launched. It envisions universal banking access, with each household having at least one basic banking account. 44.12 crore accounts have been opened under PMJDY as of December 15, 2021. It added that over 55% of account holders under PMJDY are women.
Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY): PMMY was established on April 8, 2015, to provide non-corporate, non-farm small/micro enterprises with loans of up to Rs 10 rupees. Under PMMY, these loans are known as MUDRA loans. Commercial banks, RRBs, Small Finance Banks, MFIs, and NBFCs provide these loans. Since the inception of the MUDRA scheme, about 68%, or 19.04 crore accounts, with a total value of Rs. 6.36 lakh crore have been sanctioned to women entrepreneurs.
In 2021, the government transferred Rs 1,000 crore in the bank account of Self Help Groups (SHGs), benefitting around 16 lakh women members. This transfer is being done under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihood Mission (DAY-NRLM).
Prime Minister encouraged Business Correspondent-Sakhis (B.C.-Sakhis) by transferring Rs 4,000 as the first month's stipend in the account of 20,000 B.C.-Sakhis.
The government transferred over Rs 20 crore to more than 1 lakh beneficiaries under the Mukhya Mantri Kanya Sumangala Scheme. The Scheme provides conditional cash transfer to a girl child at different stages of her life. The total transfer is Rs 15,000 per beneficiary.
Stand-Up India Scheme: The scheme was launched on April 5, 2016, to encourage entrepreneurship at the grassroots level for economic empowerment and job creation. It aims to use the institutional credit system to reach out to the underserved, such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Women Entrepreneurs. Over 81% with a total value of Rs. 20,749 crore have been approved to women entrepreneurs under the scheme as of February 2021.
Mahila E-haat: It is a direct online marketing platform launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to support women entrepreneurs, Self Helf Groups (SHGs) and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to showcase products made and services rendered by them. This is a part of the 'Digital India' initiative.
One Stop Centre Scheme: Popularly known as 'Sakhi,' it was implemented on April 1 2015, with the 'Nirbhaya' fund. The One Stop Centres are established at various locations in India for providing shelter, police desk, legal, medical and counselling services to victims of violence under one roof integrated with a 24-hour Helpline.
Working Women Hostels: Aim is to promote the availability of safe and conveniently located accommodation for working women, with daycare facilities for their children, wherever possible, in urban, semi-urban, or even rural areas where employment opportunities for women exist.
STEP or Support to Training and Employment Programme for women: It aims at providing skills and competencies to women, which will lead to employability.
Under the scheme, a particular project is provided for a duration of 5 years, depending upon its nature, kind of activities involved, and the number of beneficiaries to be undertaken.
It provides help in sectors including agriculture, horticulture, handicraft, computer handlooms, tailoring, etc. With this, it also provides help and support in skills like spoken English, it and computer, travel and tourism, hospitality, etc.
Mahila Shakti Kendra: The scheme came into force in 2017 and aims to empower rural women with opportunities for skill development, employment, digital literacy, health, and nutrition.
Each of the Mahila Shakti Kendra provides an interface to the rural women so that they can approach the government to avail their entitlements through training and capacity building. It works at four national, state, district, and block levels.
Empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability.
The task of the Narendra Modi led government is not limited to social empowerment or financial independence for women. The mandate is to deliver both in adequate proportions, depending on the educational, social and economic position of the beneficiary. For a woman who not only had to work her way through gender bias but often work doubly hard to prove her mettle, times have changed significantly both at personal and professional fronts.