- Anupama Harish
As a woman, I was more interested to find out about the women empowerment schemes. Though it is easy to access the statistics of the beneficiaries of these schemes, I wanted to talk to the people who have actually availed these schemes and marked themselves as beneficiaries. Foremost among these schemes is ‘Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana’ which provides Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) cooking facility to economically backward families. ‘Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana’ aims to meet educational and marriage expenses of a girl child. ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana’ has been launched to provide access to financial services such as savings and deposit accounts, remittance, credit, insurance, pension, etc. at affordable rates. ‘Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana’ is an initiative designed for non-corporate, informal sector, micro and small enterprises whose credit needs are below Rs 10 lakhs. ‘Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana’, a Government backed accident insurance scheme is also there.
Ujjwala and Liberation
I spoke with Srimathi Kasturi Panja, Vice president of Zila Panchayat Dakshina Kannada and asked her if the PM’s schemes for women and girl children have been implemented in her jurisdiction. Her first story was about the distribution of 250 LPG connections in Vittala Nagara Panchayat, Puttur Mandala. She recalls that many women were in tears when they received their LPG cooking kit. She went on to explain that these women have been suffering for hours every day cooking with firewood particularly cooking with damp wood in the rainy season. It was no less than a torture. These women feel liberated with better health and now have so much more time to spend with their families. She added that being a facilitator for the liberation of these women was a very touching experience.
Under this ambitious project 715 districts have been covered until now with 4, 10, 30, 010 BPL LPG connections have been released and 24x7 help lines for LPG leakage complaints have been set up. In a country, where thousands of women die every year due to cooking with unclean and hazardous fuels, this indeed is a mammoth achievement.
Smt Panja informed that they had set a target of building 1500 bunds before monsoon and they have already completed construction of 500.
Mr Prabhu of Prabhu Gas agency Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu spoke to me about his experience of visiting Maruthandakurichi village in the district. He went to this village to promote the ‘Pradhan Mantri Ujwala Yojana’. He recalls that they assembled a few women from the SC and ST belt of the village and informed them about this scheme. They were instructed to apply for LPG cooking kits by submitting their Aadhar and Ration card details. Few days later, a young woman with her infant baby came to Mr Prabhu’s agency and sought him out. She profusely thanked him and told him that she never imagined that she would ever cook with an LPG stove; she had always believed that it was only for the rich.
Mr Prabhu says that she was overwhelmed with gratitude for whoever was responsible for this scheme. He feels proud that IOC agencies have a strike rate of 70 per cent in providing connections to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families under this scheme.
Jobs and Security
Shailesh Kumar, corporate of Mulki Nagara Panchayat has been implementing these schemes to hundreds of people in 11 wards under him. The PM Self Employment Program is quite popular, he says. Without providing security and an additional 35 per cent subsidy, lot of youngsters are availing this scheme for starting small businesses. In a span of four years, more than 100 youngsters have launched their own businesses. Tailoring shops, beauty parlours, painters, fabricators are just to name a few. The ‘Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana’ has also helped thousands of young people to start their own businesses.
Vasanth Naik is a Panchayat member of Kalasa Bailu, Kallamundkur village in Mudbidri Mangalore Taluk. He opted for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee also called the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme which aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
Under this scheme he got job cards for many people in his village. They have gone on to build a model Anganwadi in Kalasa Bailu with latest facilities. He says that the constant income to the workers through this scheme has helped many families. They have also dug wells and built bunds for rain water harvesting. This village has of a predominantly Scheduled Tribes (ST) population.
Daughters are Delighted
Next, I spoke with Smt Latha from Mangalore. Latha is a mother of two young children, eight year old Tarun and four year old Aaradhya. Two years back, she opted for the ‘Sukanya Samriddhi Scheme’ for her daughter. I could sense the pride in her voice when she said that she is confident of a bright future for her daughter. When asked what she liked about the scheme, she says the option of flexible payments, availability of educational loans for her child and just the thought of seeing her daughter achieving what she could never dream of makes her happy.
She has also opted for ‘Bhagyalakshmi Yojana’ for her daughter. Access to banking facilities and the awareness of its benefits have spurred her to leave the comfort of her home and start working so that she can save more for her daughter. She jokingly says that her eight year old son is envious that his sister has two pass books in her name. In a country where gender equality seemed like a distant dream, schemes like these are paving a way to make them true soon. The feeling of hope in Latha’s voice is something I can’t put in writing. Her family has a Jan Dhan account and they have opted for the ‘Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Yojana’ too. She says the feeling of security in the wake of accident or death has given them peace of mind. Latha has recommended these schemes to other women she knows and most of them have already enrolled themselves in the same.
The same sentiments were conveyed by Lakshmi Devi of Malleshwaram, Bangalore. She has opened a Jan Dhan Account in Canara bank and deposits money regularly. She says that even if she has fifty rupees extra, she saves them. She works as a domestic help. Earlier in the event of major illness or accidents in the family, she had to beg her employers for money. She always felt bonded to them for taking financial help. Now Lakshmi is backed by the ‘Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Yojana’ and having this backup has relieved her of worrying about unforeseen expenditures.
The number of toilets built under ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ is truly impressive. The dignity it has provided to thousands of women is immeasurable. It seems as if the whole country is waking up to a dream of a clean India. No other leader has been able to inspire so many of us to work towards this dream.
The list is endless. As I spoke to more and more people who have opted for the various schemes implemented by the Government headed by PM Narendra Modi, I realised that the people of our country don’t want free sops doled out to them, all they want is the support and backing of the Government and they are ready to chart their own future. The ray of hope I felt for Bharat under his leadership has multiplied many times to a shining bright light that I see at the end of the tunnel.
(The writer is a blogger and writes on environment and governance related issues)