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Union budget 2018-19: a cause for women to cheer

Context:

  • The Union Cabinet approved the increase in the target for the Pradhan Mantri UjjwalaYojana, meant to provide cooking-gas connections to rural women, to eight crore from the earlier five crore LPG connections to BPL households.

Background:

Pradhan Mantri UjjwalaYojana: May 1st, 2016:

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, has approved Pradhan Mantri UjjwalaYojana– Scheme on May 1st, 2016.

Provisions:

  • It aims to provideFree LPG connections to Women from BPL Households.
  • Under the scheme, Rs 8000 crore has been earmarked for providing five crore LPG connections to BPL households.
  • The Scheme provides a financial support of Rs 1600 for each LPG connection to the BPL households.
  • The identification of eligible BPL families will be made in consultation with the State Governments and the Union Territories.
  • This Scheme would be implemented over three years, namely, the FY 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. 

Why is empowering women important for rural development?

  • The importance of rural women cannot be underestimated.
  • The fact remains that a quarter of the world population lives in villages and about 43% of the agricultural labour force comprises women across the globe.
  • In the Indian context, women put in more number of hours to work development.
  • Thus, without encouragement and empowerment of the rural women, one cannot foresee a strong rural economy.

What are the reasons for which rural women in India still faces discrimination and manifold disadvantages?

  • India being a young nation, its priorities has been different since independence like food security and others and therefore, empowerment of rural women came rather late to the country’s priority list.
  • The fruits of development, education and health have not reached rural women in India.
  • The data from National Family Health Survey says that the gender disparity continues to increase in rural India.
  • There has also been a decline in the jobs for rural women in India because of lack of literacy.
  • The Right to Education has come rather late and implementation of RTE still remains a challenge in these areas.
  • The Paris Climate Deal exhibits India’s commitment to the world’s goal of preventing climate change and temperature rise.
  • But this matrix does not percolate to the micro level such as Indian rural women in near future.
  • The onus of implementing these Central schemes falls on the states ultimately which have been falling short of expectations.
  • The 14thFinance Commission has devolved lot of finances to the states which the Centre was previously taking care of. Now whether the states have that capacity to absorb these funds for the purposes they are meant to be used for is a big question.
  • Rural women hardly own assets in the rural landscape which denies them institutional credit and hence they are subject to exploitation.
  • They have limited access to inputs, seeds, credits, climate-smart technologies or finance.
  • It is pertinent to note that the allocation of funds for schemes for women empowerment is not enough in itself, as often, actual expenditure falls far short of allocated funds.
  • To sum up, whether they stay back to care for their families when there is environmental degradation or disaster, migrate to find food, safety and decent work, rural women are clearly more vulnerable and marginalized.

What are the schemes and initiatives takento encourage and empower women in the recent the Union Budget 2018?

Budget allocation:

  • The total budget allocation to the Department of Women and Child Development will be Rs 24700 crores for the FY 2018-19.

Schemes and initiatives:

KisanUrja Suraksha evamUtthaanMahabhiyan – Kusum Scheme:

  • Central government has announced KisanUrja Suraksha evamUtthaanMahabhiyan – Kusum Scheme for farmers.
  • Kusum Scheme will solarize agricultural pump sets to double the income of farmers by 2022.

Solar Charkha Scheme:

  • The Government of Indiahas introduced Solar Charkha Scheme under Solar Spindle Mission.
  • Its objective is to generate women employment with five crore jobs and promote khadi.

Take-home salary:

  • Take-home salary of new women employees to go up in the formal sector.
  • The government will fund 12% of wages for new employees of Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) in all sectors

 Rate of the EPF for women:

  • The EPF contribution from women employees will be brought down from 12 per cent to 8 per cent in their first three years of employment.
  • For this, the Employees Provident Fund Act will be amended accordingly.

Self-help groups

  • Women self-help groups will be encouraged to take up organic farming.

Loans to women self-help groups:

  • Loans to women self-help groups will increase to Rs 75,000 crore by March 2019.

Electricity connections:

  • Under-privileged women will get four crore electricity connections under SaubhagyaYojana.

Mudra Yojana:

  • The allocation for Mudra Yojana, which provides entrepreneurship loans to those who may not otherwise be able to access funds, has been raised from Rs 2.44 lakh crore to Rs 3 lakh crore. 

Way forward:

  • Awareness programmes need to be organized for creating awareness among women especially belonging to weaker sections about their rights and they should be persuaded to participate in these programmes.
  • Women should be allowed to work and should be provided enough safety and support to work.
  • They should be provided with proper wages and work at par with men so that their status can be elevated in the society.
  • SHGs, more representation in Panchayats and monitoring of Government schemes like Stand Up India and Skill India in the rural sector would help in upliftment of women.
  • It is crucial that equal attention is given to the design of schemes and their timely, effective execution. 
  • Most importantly, for a healthy livelihood they need a healthy mind and body for which entities like sanitation, medication and education should be taken care of.

Conclusion:

  • When women move forward the family moves, the village moves and the nation moves.
  • Their development is of prime importance as their thought and their value systems lead the development of a good family, good society and ultimately a good nation.
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