Economy India
Human Development

Indian Women on Sound Footing: Legacy of  PM Vajpayee Matters

NMP Verma

Once Swami Vivekananda told “It is impossible to think about the welfare of the world

unless the condition of women is improved. It is impossible for a bird to fly on only one wing.”

  1. Introduction

Women account for about half of the country’s population (48.5% female population) as per 2011 census, but their labour participation rate is lower which necessitates improving their situation in the country so that they can make a significant contribution for the upliftment of society (Verma, 1990, 1998). A significant goal in and of itself is the betterment of women’s political, social, economic, and health conditions as well as their empowerment and autonomy. Furthermore, it is equally crucial for achieving sustainable development goal of gender equality. Gender equality is not just a basic human right, but also a prerequisite for a peaceful, affluent, and sustainable future of the world. Empowering the nation’s women, either economically or politically, is vital for accomplishing SDG goal 5, “gender equality”. In this article, we highlight various steps and policy actions taken for the improvement of women’s conditions in India after 1991. There was very limited welfare measure for women before the Vajpayee government. Important among them are i.. Women Reservation in Panchayati Raj Institution, 1992 – The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act. The need for representation of every section and gender of the society in the Panchayati Raj System was acknowledged by the Congress Party and Panchayat elections with gender quotas were instituted in 1992 with the passage of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, mandating 33.3 per cent reservation for women and marginalised communities in PRIs across India. ii. Mahila Samriddhi Yojana: The Department of Women and Child Development launched the Mahila Samriddhi Yojana as a central sector scheme on October 2, 1993, with the objective of empowering rural women by building confidence and self-reliance.

  1. Policy Initiatives during Vajpayee Government

The beautiful statement by Atalji “when women hold half the sky so why should they not have one-third of the political ground ? This means their enormous love and respect towards women. During the tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the Prime Minister of India, several initiatives were taken to empower women and improve their status in society. Here are some of the major women empowerment reforms introduced by the NDA government under his leadership

  • National Policy for the Empowerment of Women: On March 20, 2001, the Government of India adopted the National Policy for Women’s Empowerment, with the goal of advancing, developing, and empowering women, as well as eradicating all types of discrimination against women. The government’s policies and programs are all aimed at fostering inclusive growth, with a special emphasis on women, in line with the goal of the National Policy for Women’s Empowerment.
  • Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is a comprehensive and integrated flagship programme of Government of India to attain Universal Elementary Education (UEE), covering the entire country in a mission mode. SSA has been launched in 2001-2002 by Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in partnership with the State Governments and Local Self Governments. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan aims to provide useful and relevant elementary education for all children in the 6 to 14 age group by 2010.
  • Swayamsidha Scheme: This scheme was launched in 2001 to empower women by providing them with financial assistance, skill development training, and access to micro-credit and other resources for starting small businesses.
  • Swashakti Project: This project was launched in 2001 to empower women in rural areas by providing them with access to credit, training in income-generating activities, and support for community development.
  • The Swadhar Greh Scheme: This scheme was launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2002 with the objective to provide a supportive institutional framework for women victims of difficult circumstances so that they could lead their life with dignity and conviction. Its goal was to support women in need with shelter, food, clothes, medical assistance, and economic and social security, including widows, poor women, and elderly women. As of March 2020, 73,745 women had benefited from this programme in the previous five years.
  • Vajpayee Legacy Acceptance in UPA Government (2005-2013)
  • Janani Suraksha Yojana 2005: This is a centrally sponsored scheme launched on 12 April 2005 by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh with the objective of reducing maternal and neonatal mortality by promoting institutional delivery among poor pregnant women in India. It is a cash assistance scheme under the National Health Mission.
  • Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana, 2010: To promote conditions for safe delivery, good nutrition, and feeding practices, the Congress party came up with a conditional cash transfer programme for pregnant and lactating mothers. The scheme also aims to provide partial wage compensation to women for wage-loss during childbirth and childcare
  • Nirbhaya Act, 2013: The Nirbhaya Act or The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 has been one of the most concrete steps taken by the UPA government to curb violence against women. The Act is deemed to be one of the most important interventions made in the criminal law to deal with crimes against women such as laws related to sexual offences and it recognises acts like Acid attacks, Sexual harassment, Voyeurism, and stalking as an offence
  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) act, 2013: To prohibit and redress the problem of sexual harassment faced by women at the workplace, the UPA government came up with a distinct law and made it safer and easier for women to flourish at their workplace by guaranteeing them their right to gender equality, life and liberty and equality in working conditions everywhere along with legal assurance.
  1. Additional Policy initiatives during Post- Vajpayee ( NDA, after 2014):

The NDA government has taken various critical steps to improve women’s current conditions and strengthen them by granting them legal rights. Some of these initiatives are

  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Scheme was launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister on 22nd January, 2015 in Panipat, Haryana to improve the Child Sex Ratio and ensure gender equality and women empowerment. It aims to ensure the survival, protection, and education of the girl child and provide a better future for her.
  • Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana is a small deposit scheme of the Government of India meant exclusively for a girl child and is launched as a part of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Campaign on January 22, 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The scheme is meant to meet the education and marriage expenses of a girl child. The number of new accounts opened under Sukanya Samriddhi Account (SSA) from 01.04.2018 to 31.10.2021 is 1,42,73,910.
  • Ujjwala Yojana: This scheme was launched in 2016 to provide free LPG connections to women from Below Poverty Line (BPL) households. The scheme aims to reduce indoor air pollution caused by the use of traditional cooking fuels.
  • POSHAN Abhiyaan is the PM’s overarching scheme for holistic nourishment (earlier known as National Nutrition Mission) launched in 2017 to attain the goal of ‘Suposhit Bharat’ in mission mode. The focus is on interventions having high bearing on nutritional status, especially during the first 1,000 days of life of a child since conception
  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana: This scheme was launched in 2017 in order to provide financial assistance to pregnant women and lactating mothers for the first living child. The scheme aims to provide adequate nutrition and healthcare for pregnant women and lactating mothers.

During 2014-17 the Vajpayee successors in the ruling government’s obtained major achievements during the reign of NDA government under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi:

  • Sex ratios improved in 104 districts, with girls enrolling in secondary schools increasing.
  • Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana- Around 1.26 crore accounts have been established, with approximately Rs 20000 crore deposited.
  • Nearly 80 lakh pregnant women have been immunised as part of the Indradhanush Mission.
  • Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017- Paid maternity leave is now extended to 26 weeks, one of the highest in the world.
  • Mudra and StandUp India have collectively benefited 9 crore women.
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act – Women’s participation reached at an all-time high of 56% in 2016-17.
  • Abolition of Triple Talaq Bill gave legal right and freedom to the women of Muslim community
  • Passing of the bill -The ordinance on Death Penalty for Rape of Girl Child under 12 years

 

 

 

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  1. Conclusion

 

Following the Vajpayee legacy even his followers in NDA government have also taken various measures subsequently to empower women. In 2015, the government launched the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) scheme to promote the education and welfare of girl children. The NDA government also increased maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks and launched the Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana to promote the saving for the girl child. The NDA government also launched the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana to provide free LPG connections to poor women. Moreover, The NDA government has also  increased the participation of women in the workforce through various initiatives like the Mudra Yojana, which provides loans to women entrepreneurs. Overall, both the UPA and NDA governments have taken significant steps to empower women in India. However, the approaches and achievements differ. The UPA government focused more on legislative and policy measures, while the NDA government has emphasized on social and economic empowerment

To recapitulate, a comprehensive description  above  comparing women empowerment reforms before, after, and during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government we can conclude that many efforts were undertaken to enhance women’s empowerment in India during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure as the prime minister of India from 1998 to 2004. Some prominent works include Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), efforts to introduce womens  reservation bill in Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies, Gender Budgeting (representation of budget from gender perspective for the first time). Overall, the Vajpayee government took a lot of measures to empower women and promote gender equality in the country. These initiatives helped in improving women’s status in India and increasing their involvement and participation in different sectors

 

 

References

 

Verma, NMP, “Female Labour and Work Participation: Validity of the Existing Hypothesis”, Manpower Journal, Vol.XXVI, No.4, October-December, 1990.

Verma, NMP,”Determinants of Women Workers Participation : Notes on some Interdisciplinary Controversies”, Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol, 34, No.1, July, 1998 New Delhi.

https://www.unfpa.org/resources/issue-7-women-empowerment

https://www.inc.in/in-focus/congress-empowering-women

https://nhm.gov.in/index1.php?lang=1&level=3&lid=309&sublinkid=841

https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1832648

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/explained-on-reservation-for-women-in-politics/article66624358.ece

https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1832648

 

 

(The author is Professor of Economics and former Vice-Chancellor at BBAU, Lucknow).

 

 

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