Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday hailed the theme of GES 2017 i.e. “Women first, Prosperity for all”. Modi drew allegory of women power with the incarnation of Shakti- the Goddess of power. He said that women empowerment is vital to India’s development. This statement from a charismatic leader like Modi meant a lot for women’s participation in economic and political sphere of India. If it is to be analysed what has been done for women’s economic empowerment by Modi government in past three years, it should be viewed from two different perspectives.
At one level Narendra Modi’s Cabinet has six women ministers, including two in the powerful Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). Nirmala Sitharaman, who is Union Defence Minister, and Sushma Swaraj – the External Affairs Minister. Other Cabinet ministers are Najma Heptullah, Maneka Gandhi, Harsimrat Kaur and Smriti Irani. The presence of women at the top level of decision making certainly speaks a lot about women’s empowerment.
On the other hand, if we analyse how Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana has delivered in past eighteen months of its launch, the data suggest, average rate of LPG cylinder refills by beneficiaries stands at an annual 3.7 per connection issued. This figure is lower than national average of around 7.5 refills annually for 2016-17. However, this does not mean that scheme is not benefitting. On state-wise comparison, while Gujarat, Bihar and Uttarakhand are among the top with more than 4 cylinder refills a year, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have witnessed less than three refills a year per connection. PMUY was launched in May 2016 and aimed to provide 5 crore LPG connections within three years to women belonging to below-poverty-line (BPL) households as per the Socio-Economic and Caste Census 2011 data. The scheme has been a success as more than 3 crore connections have been issued.
Addressing GES 2017, Modi said women’s empowerment was vital to India’s development. He talked about flagship MUDRA Yojana, saying women entrepreneurs have benefited the most from the scheme.
MUDRA scheme provides easy finance of upto one million rupees to entrepreneurs. “Since its launch in 2015, over 90 million loans worth 4.28 trillion rupees have been sanctioned. Of these, more than 70 million loans have been sanctioned to women entrepreneurs,” Modi said.
“Almost 300 million bank accounts with deposits of over 685 billion rupees, or over 10 billion dollars, have been opened through the Jan Dhan Yojana. These bring previously un-banked sections of society into the formal financial system. Of these, 53 per cent accounts are of women,” PM added.
One of the clearer paths for economic empowerment of women is through education and protection of girl child. With this aim in mind, the government launched, “The Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) scheme on January 22, 2015. The scheme aimed to address the issue of declining child sex ratio (CSR) and is a national initiative jointly run by Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Human Resource Development. It initially focused on multi-sector action in 100 districts throughout the country where there was a low CSR.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs recently gave its nod for expansion of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) to all the 640 districts (as per Census 2011). The government’s commitment to improving the status of women and girls is also evident from the proposed outlay of Rs 1,132 crore that has been approved for expansion of the scheme up to 2020.