India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s priorities for women have a mixed bag of outcomes thus far. But that’s not to say there has been no work done. In this article we list down promises, programs and progress of women centric efforts.
When the NDA government came in 2014, it was applauded for taking women-friendly decisions like the Ujjwala Yojna to promote gas connections over use of traditional hazardous chullas. But what is the situation on the ground? Modi was also praised for putting more women in his Cabinet such as Nirmala Sitharaman as defence minister, Sushma Swaraj as External Affairs Minister and many others. One of the chief criticisms of the government are on publicity spends in the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme and the progress is questionable. This is also the case with the Swacch campaign to build toilets. Here are key things that happened in the Modi government in the last five years that focussed on women:
- Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Yojna
Modi started his first term with the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) scheme to push for women’s education. However, the data released by the Ministry of State for Women and Child Development in 2018 revealed that in four years, about 56% of the funds allocated to the scheme have been utilised in publicity and media activities while only 25% has been released to states and union territories for the all-round development of the girl child.
- Global Entrepreneurship Summit focussed on Women
PM Modi has pushed a digital campaign in India, and the country held its first Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2017 in Hyderabad. The theme of the summit which had over 1600 delegates were chosen to be ‘Women First, Prosperity For All’. Of the 1600 delegates, he was resolute to have 52% women. The event had women investors, entrepreneurs, and business professionals come together under one roof for two days and gave them the rare opportunity to network, find mentors and share challenges. This got Indian startups and women entrepreneurs global spotlight. Ivana Trump was the special guest.
- Maternity Leave up to 26 weeks
In 2016, the centre increased maternity leave given not just to government employees but also private employees to 26 weeks from 12 weeks. This was done through an amendment introduced to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 after a bill proposed by the Women And Child Development ministry. For the first time, maternity benefits were made available to adoptive mothers and ‘commissioning’ mothers – that is, mothers whose babies are born via a surrogate mother. Here are reports that question whether the move really helped women.
- Amma Scooter Scheme
In a bid to mark the 70th birth anniversary of late chief minister J Jayalalithaa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018 launched the Tamil Nadu government’s Amma scooter scheme and a massive tree plantation programme. It claimed to give scooters at subsidised rates to over one lakh working women.
- Homes to women in Gujarat
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018 dedicated homes to women in Gujarat as a Raksha Bandhan gift. He said that the 1.15 lakh homes built in different places under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana were a Rakhi gift to the beneficiary women. SheThePeople doesn’t have any reports to substantiate this. SheThePeople doesn’t have independent information to corroborate how many of these were actually made.
- Permanent Commission to Women Officers
In the 72nd Independence Day speech last year, PM Modi announced permanent commission for women officers of the armed forces selected through the Short Service Commission (SSC). In March 2019, the defence ministry announced that women officers be granted a permanent commission (PC) in all 10 branches of the Indian Army. These 10 branches include Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordinance Corps and Intelligence.
- Muslim Women Allowed To Go On Haj Without Male Guardian
In 2018, Modi government removed the discriminatory practice wherein Muslim women were allowed to travel for Haj only when there was a male guardian accompanying them. Ministry of minority affairs issued corrective measures and amended this restriction by phasing out a tradition that had been in practice for the past 70 years.
- Stand Up Scheme
Women entrepreneurship has also received a boost under the Modi government. Under the Stand Up India scheme started at the beginning of 2016, the government has mandated that every government bank provide at least one loan to a woman entrepreneur.
- Removed GST on sanitary napkins
The GST initiative was deeply criticized by women across the board after it taxed sanitary napkins at 12%. Then in July 2018, the government lifted the tax from sanitary napkins. The government had argued that under the new tax regime the rate on sanitary napkins was actually lower. They claimed earlier there were several hidden taxes which led to sanitary pads having an effective tax rate of 13% over the price. This was after a massive campaign across India by women called Lahu Ka Lagaan.
- Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana
Launched on 1st May 2016 from Ballia in Uttar Pradesh by the Modi government the scheme aims at providing LPG connections to women from Below Poverty Line. It has reportedly provided about 72 million new LPG connections to households in 714 districts, according to official data. This scheme continues to bring the Modi government accolades.
- One Stop Centres
Since 2015 when the scheme first came into existence to tackle the issue of gender-based violence in the country, 234 One Stop Centres (OSCs) have been constructed in several states. This is out of 654 OCSs were promised by the WCD ministry at the start of the scheme. These aim to provide integrated support and assistance under one roof to women affected by violence, both in private and public spaces. As per a report in India Today, 1,90,572 women have been supported through these centres till December 2018.
- Women as nation builders
Women empowerment is crucial to India’s growth. Days of seeing women as ‘home makers’ have gone, we have to see women as nation builders – Narendra Modi’s tweet in 2014.
- Mudra loan
The Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) is a flagship scheme of the Modi government that provides loans of up to Rs 10 lakh to small entrepreneurs. One of the major beneficiaries of this scheme has been small scale women entrepreneurs. Textile Minister Smriti Irani in January this year stated at an event that women have cornered about 75 per cent of the total disbursals, The Hindu Business Line reported. The same scheme was contested saying not enough women are coming ahead to take the loans.
While the first-time Prime Minister was applauded for taking women-friendly decisions like the Ujjwala Yojna and for making Nirmala Sitharaman the second woman to become a defence minister in the country, there were also a few failures like the overspending of funds in the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme.
- Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan
Launched by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), the scheme focuses on providing a free check-up to pregnant women on the 9th of every month in government health centres. PM Modi spoke about it first in a Mann Ki Baat in 2016 where he highlighted the aim and purpose of the scheme.
- Free toilets for women
While the Swacch Bharat scheme has been under much scrutiny, it wouldn’t be wrong to include it in the list since it did further the cause of women’s dignity in the rural belt of the country. Officials familiar with the development say that a total of six million household and 4,50,000 community toilets have been built over the last four years under the Union government’s Swachh Bharat Mission, HT reported. Further another report by Scroll says while there is impressive increase in access of toilets i.e the government claims 9.2 crore toilets built in rural areas, the toilets have not all been approved or verified. The government’s own data shows only 14% of the constructed toilets have gone through the second round of verification.
India’s average rate of reported rape cases is about 6.3 per 100,000 of the population as per National Crime Bureau. As a country we have seen a 200 % jump in crimes against women from 2001 to 2015. More recently, reported crimes increased by 26% in 2013. Crime reporting increased in states of Northern India, like Rajasthan, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh among others. North East continues to be another region of heightened crime against women. As per this report, an estimated 99.1% of sexual violence cases are not reported. India is also yet to pass a law that makes marital rape a crime. Some progress has been made with a landmark ruling for death sentence for rapists of minors.
18. Women’s Reservation Bill