Social empowerment is a means to build a socially just society. The holistic empowerment of all sections of the society is a necessary condition for the development of a country.
With full commitment to social justice and empowerment, Modi government has taken up various measures to empower the poor, underprivileged and marginalized sections of the society.
Empowerment through education
Budgetary allocations of both the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and Ministry of Minority Affairs have increased significantly under the Modi government. However, a feature of the Modi government is that budgets do not merely remain on paper but also translate to outcomes.
Education is the first step that empowers any marginalised community to attain socio-economic mobility in society. Under the Modi government, education has become a potent tool for empowering the masses, especially the people belonging to socially and economically weaker sections of the society. One of the important steps taken by the government to ensure access to higher education, the amount of scholarships offered has been increased significantly. Also, the threshold of scholarship has been increased to extend this facility to more students from these communities.
For the Pre-Matric Scholarship for OBC, the income eligibility has been increased from Rs 44,500 per annum to Rs. 2.5 lakh per annum. For Pre-Matric Scholarship for SC, the income eligibility raised from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakhs. To boost educational infrastructure in tribal areas, 462 new Eklavya Model Residential Schools are being set up.
Scholarships and other educational facilities for these communities increased substantially. Over 5.7 crore students received scholarship support worth Rs 15,918 crore during 2014-2018.
Poverty, by itself, acts as an agent of exclusion from opportunities. To address this, in a historic decision ensuring equity and justice for all, the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act 2019, was brought into effect by the Modi government without affecting the existing reservations to OBCs, SCs and STs. It gives 10% reservation in jobs and educational institutions for economically weaker section (EWS) in general category who have annual family income below Rs 8 lakh. To ensure effective implementation, 25% additional seats were provided in educational institutions to meet the 10% reservation.
Entrepreneurship for Social Empowerment
Entrepreneurship is not only a means to self-employment but also ensures social mobility. Making the people job creators, and not just job seekers is one of the mottos of the Modi government. The government’s flagship schemes such as Stand up India and MUDRA is providing support for entrepreneurial spirit to flourish among the weaker sections of the society. In the first three years of the MUDRA Yojana, over 50% of the entrepreneurs funded, about 6.71 crore people, belonged to the SC/ST/OBC sections of society.
The National SC/ST Hub was established in October 2016, with an initial allotment of Rs 490 crore for the period 2016-20 to promote SC/ST entrepreneurs by strengthening market access and linkage, monitoring, capacity-building, leveraging financial support schemes and sharing industry best practices.
A far-reaching initiative that will help tap the innovative and entrepreneurial zeal among people of the SC community is the Venture Capital Fund for Scheduled Castes. Launched by the Modi government, this scheme has already assisted 90 companies with a sanctioned amount of Rs 322.80 crore.
The Modi government is helping expand marketing opportunities to tribal communities. Better market linkages are being created as well rules that hindered their economic progress are being done away with. Further, 14 new items were added to Minor Forest Produces (MFP) and freedom has been given to the states for fixing the MSP at 10% above or below the MSP rate decided by the Union Ministry.
Crores of people are involved in bamboo-related activities, many of them from the tribal population. The Modi government amended the colonial era Indian Forest Act, 1927, exempting bamboo grown in non-forest land from the Forest Act. It was followed with the announcement of “National Bamboo Mission” in Budget 2018-19 with the allocation of Rs 1,290 crore.
The new model of empowerment, as being implemented by Modi government, shifts the paradigm from outlays to outcomes. It equips the weaker sections of the society with the tools of empowerment that allow them to break away from the cycle of poverty and exclusion.