The announcement of the much-awaited Union Budget 2023 has been appreciated, criticised, and everything else in between.
The Budget endorsed seven priorities - inclusive development, reaching the last mile, infrastructure and investment, unleashing the potential, green growth, youth power and financial sector - to guide India through the "Amrit Kaal." As per Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the budget gives priority to the deprived and will fulfil the dreams of the aspirational society, the farmers and the middle class. But from a woman’s perspective, what sort of inclusions or assistance can one expect? What are the specifics and schemes that target our female population that will inevitably help accomplish the ambitious national goals mentioned by the government? Let’s have a look.
Economic Empowerment of Women
Economic empowerment of women is an imperative opportunity for the central government where they can actively transform society to achieve their vision with respect to areas such as providing a strong impetus to growth and job creation, facilitating opportunities for citizens, and strengthening macroeconomic stability. Women make up around 23.4% of the Indian workforce, a focus on the above-mentioned areas will indubitably increase this number, and not only help women, but the nation set new limits for growth.
A Focus on Large Producer Enterprises
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman stated that the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana has mobilised rural women into 81 lakh SHGs (Self Help Groups). The yojana is well-known for assisting the poor to acquire and improve skills by providing them with specialised training.
Considering this the finance minister further stated, “We will enable these groups to reach the next stage of economic empowerment, that is, the formation of large producer enterprises and collectives, each having several thousand members and managed professionally. They will be helped with raw materials, better design, quality, branding, and marketing for their products. Through supporting policies, they will be able to scale up their operations and serve the large consumer markets, similar to several start-ups that have turned into unicorns.”
The challenge will be to resolve the bottlenecks in the implementation of the scheme by providing credit flow for the urban poor and involving NGOs in skilling such women.
Azadi Ka Amrit Mohotsav – Mahila Samman Scheme
Under the Aazadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, a new small savings scheme called “Mahila Samman Patra” will be made available for a period of two years, ending in March 2025. It will permit a deposit of up to ₹2 lakhs in the name of a woman or girl for two years at a fixed interest rate of 7.5% with a partial withdrawal option. Aazadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav was introduced around the celebration of the 75th Independence Day in 2022.
Mission Shakti: Women's Safety, Security and Empowerment
Mission Shakti came into force and aimed to protect women and make them self-sufficient. It is focused on the financial independence of women, their personal empowerment, and their safety. Mission Shakti comprises two sub-schemes – 'Sambal' and 'Samarthya'.
Sambal scheme takes care of women’s safety and security in a number of ways:
- Erstwhile Schemes: These schemes comprise One Stop Centre (OSC), Women Helpline (WHL), and Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP).
- Nari Adalats (A new component of the scheme) – These are women's collectives that have been established to promote and facilitate alternative dispute resolution and gender justice in society and within families.
Samarthya scheme focuses on the empowerment of women in a number of ways–
- Former Schemes: It incorporates, with modifications, former schemes such as Ujjwala, Swadhar Greh, and Working Women Hostel.
- Existing Schemes: Included under the umbrella of ICDS are the National Creche Scheme for children of working mothers and Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY).
-This scheme now includes a new component of Gap Funding for Economic Empowerment.
Income Tax-slabs likely to help salaried women
The new income tax slabs announced under the new tax regime are expected to help salaried women and women engaged in formal employment, especially those belonging to middle-class backgrounds. According to the new tax regime, employees earning up to 7 lakhs will no longer be required to pay tax, enabling these women to become part of the economic development of the country.
Taking into consideration all these points, it may be safe to say that a clear and targeted attempt has been made to facilitate financial independence and enhance women's empowerment with the new budget. Access to greater resources and schemes is a step in the right direction to enable better opportunities for women in the country. Effective implementation is key to making this happen.
Views expressed are the author's own.
Aashisha Chakraborty is a PM-YUVA author and Write India winner.
Suggested Reading: Union Budget 2023: Nirmala Sitharaman Announces New Savings Scheme For Women