Mrunal Manmay Dash

With the Panchayat polls round the corner, the Odisha government, led by Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supremo Naveen Patnaik, tasked several departments to provide sufficient work orders to Women Self Help Groups (WSHGs) and reprimanded those departments which have lagged behind.

A meeting was held by the Chief Minister's Office earlier on August 12, 2021 to review the progress on provisioning services and procurement of goods through Mission Shakti SHGs by different Departments.

As per reports, as many as 19 government departments have been tasked for capacity building of the SHGs under Mission Shakti department. And, the departments reprimanded for lagging behind include the SC & ST Development, Handlooms Textile & Handicrafts, Forest & Environment Departments. The Panchayatiraj Department has also been cautioned to improve its performance in awarding work orders to the SHGs.

The government directed the Food Supply Department to include SHGs of all the districts for paddy procurement and distribution of PDS ration through SGHs. The departments have been directed to engage more and more SHGs in fish farming, mushroom farming, uniform supply, and electricity bill collection.

Mission Shakti Minister, Tukuni Sahu said, "Women are not confined to making pickles, dumplings and papads. Rather they are spreading their wings to farming and field jobs. The focus of our department lies only on their development."

Acting on the order, The Housing and Urban Development Department planned for a structured capacity building of the Mission Shakti SHGs by creating a pool of trainers and mentors.

The department signed an MoU with the Urban Management Centre, Ahmedabad, a globally recognised not-for-profit organisation with expertise in professional urban management.

While the State is prioritizing systematic investments for the development of Mission Shakti (SHGs) to address poverty and vulnerability of marginalized section of the society, Opposition parties cried foul terming it as an eyewash and a bait for the upcoming Panchayat polls to attract the woman voters.

President of BJP Mahila Morcha, Smruti Pattnaik said, " these work orders will never benefit the women. The contractors will skim all the cream from the top and the women will be left with a mere commission."

She went on to add, "It is a ploy to woe woman voters towards the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the upcoming Panchayat polls. Women have been used by the BJD as a commodity," alleged Pattnaik.

Similarly, Congress leader Mamata Kundu said, " Women should be given access to market and raw materials too. Only a small fund for business setup is more of a bait to win over their trust for the next polls."

It is pertinent to mention here that as per the decision taken in the first Cabinet, government business worth Rs 5,000 cr will be provisioned through SHGs over a period of five years.