EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN

(Indira kranthi Patham – IKP)

 

The American president George W Bush had a pleasant surprise when he visited state agriculture university in the capital city of Hyderabad last year to see the products made by the women workers of Andhra Pradesh. 

 

He was glad to note that the women in the Andhra Pradesh from all sections of society had emerged as the true agents of development and instruments of progress from the grassroots.

 

“I wish  this model of Andhra Pradesh  in utilizing  the  mothers, sisters  and  housewives  as   tools of  development  is  emulated  worldwide “ the US President  had  said  during his  half a day  sojourn  in the fields of the agricultural university  .

 

Even the  president of the  World Bank  Paul Willowish  who visited one of the villages  in the state  and spent  time  in the  huts  of the  poorest of the  poor   felt that  the  women were the true  agents of change .

 

“Women as agents of change are the best model of infusing development for the needy and from the grassroots level “he had said.

 

What began as a small experiment of promoting the habit of thrift among women from the BPL families almost a decade ago has now become a mass based movement to end poverty in villages. A bureaucrat  had sown the seeds of  thrift  in the villages of  Nellore  which  was later  converted into  a bandwagon of  economic  growth  for  the poor below  poverty line ( BPL)  in  thousands of  villages  in Andhra Pradesh .

 

There were 6.99 lakh SHG’s with a corpus of Rs.30,886.85 crore. Thanks to the government initiative of PAVALA VADDI  the bank loan linkage had shot up from Rs.3063.87 crore of 2006-07 to Rs.6527 crore in 2007-08 and  is proposed to Rs.10,000 crore in the year  2008-09.

 

The AP government has provided Rs.656 crore for women and child welfare in the budget of 2008-09 as against Rs.460 crore of  previous  year registering  a 42 percent hike.

 

Today the state is proud of the experiment which has resulted in formation of 6,99,056 Self Help Groups covering 87,52,540 of women  with a corpus of over Rs.3000 crores amongst them. 

 

While the bank lending to SHG was just Rs.197.70 crore in 2001-02 it has jumped to Rs.3063.87 in 2006-07 and to Rs.6527 crore in 2007-08. The target is to secure Rs.10,000 crore for the SHGs from the banks in the  2008-09 year.

 

Under the PAVALA VADDI scheme the government has borne an interest burden of Rs.172.70 crore in 2007 and provided Rs.250 crore in 2008-09 budget.

 

The women and child welfare department has covered 129.75 lakh women,  69.70 lakh children below 6 years and  39.40 lakh adolescent girls under the 385 projects of the Integrated Child development schemes with 73,944  Anganwadi centres.

 

In place of half hearted efforts of the past government to promote women in public life the congress government under the dynamic leadership of Chief Minister Dr.Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy chose put these groups for development of the villages by involving them in the affairs of running the village economy.

 

“Hither too the past government used the women as an instrument of political platform for their meetings and to embellish their vote bank. But I firmly believe that if the village economy is to be improved, it can only be done through the women - be it a housewife, or a sister or even a mother“ said the Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy in the  initial days of his taking over the leadership in the state.

 

Among the various measures initiated for their betterment by the congress government it is the tool of PAVALA VADDI which had done wonders in providing an independent livelihood for the poor in the villages.

 

PAVALA VADDI  is a concept  of providing  bank loans to  the  women  SHG’s at a cheaper interest  rate  of  three percent as against the exiting interest rate of  12 percent in the commercial banks. The state government paid the differential rate of interest to the banks under a unique scheme supported by the centre to revive economic activity in the villages.

 

The success of the PAVALA VADDI scheme is such that the commercial banks have as of date advanced a whopping Rs.8779.77 crore as loans to the women SHG’s with rate of collection arrears as high as 97 percent. In the year of 2006-07 a bank loan linkage of Rs.3169 crore provided. The state government has paid a interest subsidy of over Rs.172.70 crore last three years.

 

In comparison the past TDP government procured for the SHG’s in spite of  high voltage publicity was just  Rs.752.90 crore as loans spread over nine years.

 

“In view of the successful experiment even the NABARD and the Bankers committees are coming forward to extend unlimited credit to women SHG’s not only in Andhra Pradesh but also elsewhere in the country wherever the SHG movement has caught on“ says the State Finance Minister K.Rosaiah.

 

The Andhra Pradesh Government took the initiative of unveiling a poverty alleviation program through the SHG’s way back in nineties. The credit goes to the congress government however in consolidating the various programs under one umbrella of INDIRA KRANTI PATHAM.

 

“The anti poverty programs funded by different agencies like the world bank, Government of India and the AP government were  implemented  by different agencies  with high cost of overheads  etc in the past and hence it was decided to club all of them under one program of  INDIRA KRANTI PATHAM “ says the Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy .

 

The program is under implementation in 914 mandals of 22 districts selected for the acute poverty conditions and is administered by an autonomous body Society for Eradication of Rural Poverty (SERP).

 

Till the other day the SHG’s were used as crowds for political platforms of the erstwhile TDP government. The members were compelled to attend the meetings with assurances of disbursement of pensions and    ration cards and loan sanction letters at the venue.

 

But the Congress government dispensed with the practice and assured the women that all sanction letter would be delivered to them at their door steps by the post office. “The SHG women need not attend any political meetings” the CM directed the officials very firmly.

 

Instead the SHGs were being used by the Government for popularizing their programs for poor, women, youth and also farmers. The SHG’s are empowered to function as eyes and ears of the government in implementation of health, education and also agriculture programs 

 

Some of the salient features of SHG involvement in populist programs as below:

 

  1. The SHG’s have been engaged in marketing of forest produce like gum, rubber, tamarind and spices collected by tribal women.

  1. The SHG’s were also engaged in procurement of Maize from farmers. Agricultural & NTFP commodities to the tune of 42.50 lakh tons worth Rs.277.88 crore were procured upto November, 2007. The government wants to add some more farm products for procurement through the SHG’s.

 The SHG women were also selected to work as Arogya volunteers in villages to spread message of family planning and AIDS in villages. 80,000 women volunteers for AIDS trained.

 

4. The SHG’s are empowered for distribution of rice among 12       lakh BPL families in the state. 

 

5. Andhra Pradesh Government has been registering land    grants to the poor in the name of women only.

 

6. Women SHG’s are encouraged to undertake trading in    maize, neem seeds, Lac, groundnuts, Cashew-nuts and       turmeric crops              as well. 4442.20 acres of land was        purchased and handed over      to 4795 poor families upto           November, 2007.

 

7. Under food security schemes the SHG’s are procuring quality     rice and selling them to the poor families at subsidized      rates. 17,19,698 families are covered under this       programme.

 

8.  SHG’s involved in identifying school dropouts and bringing        them back to bridge schools.

 

9.      1,83,589 disabled persons were brought under 19,727 SHG’s  for enabling  them in various group activities.

 

10.  SHGs spreading awareness in NPM farming among agriculturists to bring 5.00 lakh acres of NPM farming in the state.

 

11. Rs.459.23 crores pension distributed to 43.60 lakh       pensioners        upto November, 2007.

 

The I.K.P. is also providing training to women in trade skills to enable them to get jobs in private sector and also other avocations in villages and towns. In 2004-05 SHG’s enabled 7000 jobs against 11,200 jobs in 2005-06.  In the year 2006-07 the SHG trained women in security jobs, services, textiles, bank sector and also house keeping jobs to the tune of 33,800. During the year 2007-08, 32,425 youth are provided jobs in private sector.

 

“The objective is to train the women in various skills to get as  many as  one lakh jobs  in the nest two years”, says the  State Rural Development Minister G.Chinna Reddy.