“Women’s self-help groups can contribute significantly to GDP”
While the government has already prioritized the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), aiming to increase the annual income of each woman in self-help groups (SHGs) to Rs 1 lakh by 2024, it is aggressively promoting l entrepreneurship and economies of scale among them. . Not only that, instead of a grant-based economy, he wants to support his grabbing efforts by providing loan relief and allowing access to markets.
Addressing the third edition of the Indian Express Thinc Session on Gender, titled “Women’s Collectives: Agents of Change from Below,” Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Giriraj Singh said, “ My mission is to ensure that no rural woman, who wants to connect with NRLM, is left behind. I will also improve the turnover of 5.9 lakh crore women. If half the population of the country improves its income, it will contribute significantly to the national GDP.
Highlighting the progress made by NRLM, Mr Singh said that up to 2014, the program involved 2.35 lakh houses, had 80,000 crore bank links with non-performing assets (NPA) at 9.58%. “Today, 8.35 crore women are connected to the NRLM and there are 5.9 lakh crore bank links, while NPAs have been reduced to 2.5%. No other sector has such low NPAs today and I will further reduce it to less than 1%,” he said.
Envisioning a multi-sectoral role for SHGs, the minister said he wants to ensure that every woman receives an annual income of Rs 1 lakh, which means around Rs 8,000 to 10,000 per month. “They work in several sectors as Business Correspondents (BC), Bank Sakhis, Kisan Sakhis and Pashu Sakhis. About 60 to 70% of women working in agriculture and livestock should be able to diversify and move into millet cultivation and horticulture. These avenues will provide new downstream connections,” he added.
As part of “Mission 1 lakh, 2024,” Singh highlighted how his ministry was facilitating enterprises and clusters of women farmers by connecting them to e-commerce platforms such as Flipkart and Amazon and linking national markets at national. Not only that, the government would help them with enhancement, branding and packaging.
Elaborating on a multi-pronged approach, the Minister explained how SHG women in the villages could usher in a new green revolution by making organic fertilizers. “A woman from Bakhri village in my constituency Begursarai, Bihar owns two acres of land and got good yield as a result and could sell her produce at higher prices. We give hundreds of thousands of rupees in subsidies for chemical fertilizers. This burden can be reduced by involving women in the production of organic manure,” Singh said, adding, “There is a new enthusiasm among grassroots women to improve their collective lot.”