Scheduled implementation of India’s numerous social welfare initiatives is helping elevate the masses one scheme at a time
Kavita is often seen reading storybooks these days. The 32-year-old woman from Ballia village in Uttar Pradesh has a lot of spare time ever since she became one of the beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which provides the poor clean cooking fuel through a LPG (liquid petroleum gas) connection.
Like millions across rural households, Kavita depended on traditional fuels that are hazardous to health and polluting in nature. Therefore, the launch of the Ujjwala Scheme by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 1, 2016, changed her life.
“I no more dread entering the kitchen,” Kavita says, lighting the gas stove to make tea. After that, she will sit in the courtyard reading storybooks until her husband returns from work. Several other women are utilising their spare time to train and equip themselves to become socio-economic entrepreneurs.
Ujjwala is one of the largest social transformation programmes aimed at safeguarding the health of women. It is especially intended for women who either work in smoky kitchens or need to visit unsafe areas to collect firewood for cooking. The government is on a mission to provide LPG to all such poor households at subsidised rates.
To support the scheme, Modi urged citizens to give up their LPG subsidy and India responded with delight. Until January this year, more than 60 million connections were provided and the target has now been set at 80 million before March 31, 2020.
Make in India
The innovative scheme resulted in additional employment for thousands of people and provided business opportunities to over 100 million, as under the Make in India campaign, all gas stoves, cylinders, and regulators are manufactured indigenously.
Moreover, to ensure the empowerment of women, the LPG connection is issued in the name of the woman of the house. The shift to LPG by many rural households has also, coincidentally contributed towards a reduction in air pollution, a fact appreciated and commended by the World Health Organisation.
“With the government ensuring all direct subsidies (on scores of schemes) reach the poor and benefit them, India’s social welfare schemes worked as a game changer in the recently held Lok Sabha elections, wherein the Bharatiya Janata Party bagged a massive mandate,” a government official says.
Hygiene is key
When Modi first became India’s prime minister five years ago, his initial target was to see a clean nation. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Campaign) is a dream come true for millions of Indians, who, for generations lacked proper sanitation facilities in their homes.
Atma Ram, a 72-year-old villager from Sirsa, Haryana, says, “We have been considering building a toilet for long. But financial constraints came in the way. Under the government’s scheme, we had registered for financial support and the toilet was constructed within a month. Finally, my son and I got rid of taunts from the womenfolk, whose grouse was that a toilet was the most basic necessity in any household.”
His daughter-in-law, Shobha conveys, “My daughters and I no more face the discomfort and shame that we endured daily. We shall always be grateful to the prime minister for providing such an initiative for us.”
Launched in 2014, Swachh Bharat Scheme is meant to provide all rural households access to toilet facilities, promising to make India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019. Ever since, several states including Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand and Kerala, have been declared ODF.
However, an official associated with the mission remarked, “While building toilets is an important step for sanitation, the impact would be great if there’s a mindset change among men in some rural areas. They need to understand that toilets prevent disease.”
According to the government’s Economic Survey, between 2014-2019 cases of diarrhoea and malaria dropped significantly among children below five years. This year, by March, 95 per cent of rural India had toilet coverage.
Reforms can’t wait
While many of the PM’s flagship schemes are aimed at addressing women’s issues, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (JDY), though meant for the benefit of both men and women of all age groups, is drawing maximum appreciation from rural women.
Kamla Bai, a resident of Bhilai Charoda village in Chhattisgarh, opened a JDY account, along with other women, two years ago. “We visited the bank earlier as well, but the officials never supported us, saying we did not have the required documents. Under Jan Dhan Yojana, it all became possible. Now, whatever little amount I manage to save, I deposit in my account,” the 51-year-old housemaid says.
JDY is a platform for access to financial services, including bank accounts, remittances, and pension. Beneficiaries are also entitled to Rs100,000 (Dh5,270) accident insurance and Rs30,000 life insurance cover.
Women’s share in economy
India’s Economic Survey claims the proportion of women having a bank or savings account that they operate, have increased from 15.5 per cent in 2005-06 to 53 per cent in 2015-16. This has resulted in a higher participation by women in household decision making, a positive change.
Another important feature of JDY is a Rs5,000 overdraft facility for Aadhar-linked accounts. Kamla is particularly keen on drawing its benefit. “Since I am getting old, it is becoming difficult for me to do cleaning and sweeping jobs in households. I plan to start a small enterprise. Once it takes off, I will take a loan from the bank and expand the venture,” she says.
Better living conditions
Similarly, to provide affordable housing for the rural poor the government created the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awaas Yojana in 2015. (A similar scheme for the urban poor was launched as Housing for All by 2022). Under the schemes, financial assistance worth Rs120,000 in plain areas and Rs130,000 in difficult terrains are provided for construction of houses. The house is allotted in the name of the woman or jointly between husband and wife.
“The purpose of the scheme is to replace all temporary housing structures from villages and provide quality living to the weaker sections of society,” an official reasons.
In Madhya Pradesh’s Gangora village in Shivpuri district, Meera, the 45-year-old widow of Gulab Banjara acknowledges, “Were it not for the prime minister, my children and I would have had to spend the rest of our lives in a hut. But now we have a permanent roof over our heads.
“Just like in Gangora, in nearby Kota village an entire colony has come up. And every house has been provided with a kitchen and toilet facility.”
Nal Se Jal scheme
Given the acute water scarcity all over the country, the government’s Jal Shakti ministry aims to provide a piped water connection to every household by the year 2024 through schemes such as the Nal Se Jal (Water from the tap) initiative.
Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme
The new Modi government has extended this scheme for farmers, initially launched during India’s 2019 Interim Union Budget in February.
Benefiting over 145 million agriculturalists, it promises to pay Rs6,000 every year to all poor (small and marginal) farmers having land up to two hectares. The money will be disbursed via three instalments through Direct Bank Transfer.
Kisan Pension Yojana
The government will provide farmers a fixed pension with a minimum of Rs3,000 per month. Eligible farmers (in the 18-40 age group) can participate in this voluntary contributory pension scheme. Once the beneficiary dies, the spouse is entitled to 50 per cent of the original beneficiary’s pension.
The world’s largest rural electrification programme, launched in September 2017, promises 100 per cent household electrification, benefitting people in the country’s most remote areas.
Covering more than 500 million people and offering Rs500,000 per family, annually, the world’s largest government-funded healthcare scheme includes treatments like coronary bypass and knee replacement.
The Micro-Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) provides affordable credit to small enterprises in three variables: Shishu (up to Rs50,000), Kishore (Rs50,000 to Rs500,000) and Tarun (Rs100,000 to Rs500,000).
It provides a comprehensive insurance cover against crop failure, including commercial crops, thus assisting farmers to stabilise their income. Post-harvest losses are also covered under the scheme.
The objective of this scheme is to enhance the skills of youth by providing them training in line with the industrial standards. It further enables them to get suitable employment. Individuals with prior experience or skills are also assessed.
NGO’s mission possible!
Initiated by India’s central government, it’s for the first time in the country’s history that innumerable schemes launched for the benefit of the masses have become success stories in a short spell of time. The schemes are central or state-specific, or implemented in collaboration between the two.
However, in the case of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s flagship scheme Swachh Bharat, aimed at making the country open-defecation free, the role of Sulabh International, India’s largest non-profit organisation, cannot be denied. Its founder, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak (in picture) took up the subject of sanitation as a mission five decades ago.
Set to make the scheme a success, Dr Pathak informed, “We are not only motivating, but also implementing the scheme and following it up by training one person each in the 643,000 villages across the country.”
Sulabh has constructed over 1.5 million household toilets. The number of government toilets constructed based on Sulabh design is 60 million. The NGO has made 640 towns scavenging free and constructed 8,500 toilet blocks, paving the way for the biggest sanitation drive in the world.