Empowerment of women has been a central priority of the Modi government since 2014. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself said, he considers India’s future as one led by women in every sector - women-led development.
It is well known that almost every successful flagship scheme of the Modi government was made a mass movement because of the large scale participation of women.
While Ujjwala Yojana ensured a smoke-free life for over 8 crore women, more than half of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana’s beneficiaries - coming up to 23 crore - are women.
While Swachh Bharat ensured safe sanitation for women of nearly 11 crore households, Jal Jeevan Mission, which has already covered over 4 crore rural households with tap water connections ensures that women do not have to undergo the drudgery of fetching water from faraway water sources.
Even when the pandemic struck, the Modi government ensured it could extend all help necessary to women during this time.
A Shoulder of Support for Women during the Pandemic
After the national lockdown was first announced in March of 2020, the government of India announced the PM Garib Kalyan package which contained significant support to help women during the difficult circumstances.
Accordingly, 20 crore women each received Rs 500 per month for next 3 months amounting to over Rs 30,000 crore, directly in their Jan Dhan accounts between April and June of 2020. 14 crore cylinders refills were also delivered to beneficiaries under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana delivering cooking gas free of cost during this crucial time. Collateral free loans upto Rs 20 lakh have also been made available to 63 lakh women Self Help Groups. This package provided much needed relief during this period of difficulty and uncertainty.
Helping Distressed Women Through One Stop Centres
Safety and security of women is of paramount importance. At their time of distress, it is crucial that social, legal and medical help is provided. One Stop Centres (OSCs) across 35 states/UTs have been established to provide help to distressed women affected by violence or poverty. These OSCs offer police, medical, legal aid and counselling, psychological support against any forms of violence. 3 lakh women benefited from this facility so far.
Strengthening the Health of Women
When policy and implementation both focus on delivering the best for the people, sooner or later, it is reflected in results. There has been a remarkable improvement in health indicators for women in the recent past with successful implementation of schemes like Poshan Abhiyaan and Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. While child sex ratio has increased from 918 in 2014-15 to 934 in 2019-20, maternal mortality rate too has fallen from 130 in 2014-16 to 113 in 2016-18.
Poshan Abhiyaan 2.0 has also been launched to reduce anaemia & malnutrition in mothers and adolescents, and strengthen nutritional delivery and outcomes. Over Rs 11,000 crore has been allocated under Poshan Abhiyaan in the last 4 years helping to improve nutrition outcomes among mothers.
Poshan Atlas is also being developed with a map of crops and food grains grown in different parts of the country and promotes locally-grown, nutritious and protein-rich food to combat malnutrition. This atlas will also act as a repository of diverse crops across 127 agro-climatic zones of the country having three parts- crops currently being grown, agro-ecological conditions (soil, organic carbon content, ground water availability etc) and guidance on how a greater diversity of crops could be encouraged in a particular district or block to promote dietary diversity and nutrition.
Further, the POSHAN Tracker App has also been launched. The app enables real-time monitoring of Anganwadis, their workers and beneficiaries, and helps in beneficiary management.
Expanding Rights of Women
The Modi government has introduced a bouquet of progressive laws in Parliament that has empowered women.
Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020 has raised the upper limit for abortion to 24 weeks for particular categories of women. By allowing abortion up to 24 weeks of gestational age for vulnerable categories of women and no limit of gestational age in case of pregnancies with substantial foetal abnormalities, a medical solution which women in our country have long sought for decades has finally been provided.
Dignity and Security for Women through PMAY-G
Women have been given special priority under PM Awas Yojana - Gramin to ensure there is a roof over their head with more than 50 lakh houses sanctioned solely in the name of female beneficiaries. More than 80 lakh houses have also been sanctioned jointly in the name of husband and wife.
Promoting Women Entrepreneurship and Right of Women to Work
More than Rs 20,000 crore have been sanctioned to 90,000 women entrepreneurs under Stand-Up India making up 83% of all loans sanctioned under the scheme. Margin money requirement has also been reduced from 25% to 15% under Stand-up India Making more women entrepreneurs eligible to borrow and chase their dreams.
Newly passed labour laws include provisions that enable women employees to work in various kinds of roles and also in night-shifts with adequate protection. Equal wages to women have also been guaranteed under Labour Code on Wages.
The Maternity Benefits Act, people would remember, was amended by the Modi government to raise fully paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for women working in the organized sector enabling women to recuperate fully before coming back to work.