By Ashutosh Mishra
Bhubaneswar: Empowerment of women has been one of the major achievements of Naveen Patnaik government. Mission Shakti, the most important initiative on this front, has become symbolic of dignity and self-reliance of the members of the fair sex.
There are around six lakh women self help groups (SHGs) in the state engaged in a number of economic activities that are not only a source of income for them but also contribute significantly to the development of the state. The SHG movement is a success story and has given women belonging to marginal and lower income groups an identity.
The popularity of these collectives can be gauged from the fact that Pramila Bisoi, a sexagenarian SHG leader from the rural belt of Ganjam, was made Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) Lok Sabha candidate from Aska by chief minister, Naveen Patnaik. The choice was significant also from the point of view that Aska had in the past been represented by chief minister himself and before him by his father, Biju Patnaik, a big advocate of women empowerment.
The government over the years has supported these women collectives in various ways. Last January Patnaik had announced interest-free loans up to Rs. 3 lakh for these groups at a convention in Puri that saw the congregation of around 50,000 women from various parts of the state.
He had also distributed financial assistance of Rs 3,000 each to six lakh WSHGs as part the state government's efforts to digitally empower women. During the "Make in Odisha" conclave held in the state last November Patnaik had promised smartphones to six lakh WSHGs.
The SHGs over the years have diversified their activities and have been working in close cooperation with the state government. The latest on this front is that they are being involved in the exercise of paddy procurement in Kalahandi on a pilot basis. Around 17 SHGs have been working in 17 panchayats of the district . Until now they have procured 2.47 lakh quintal of paddy amounting to Rs 44.15 crore, their commission in this being to the tune of Rs 77.24 lakh.
With the success of this project Women and Child development and Mission Shakti departments are likely to involve more WSHGs in paddy procurement in other districts of the state during the kharif season. This will make a significant impact on the economy of 70 lakh women members of the SHGs spread across the state.
While empowering women through these collectives the government has also reaped political benefits. It has strengthened ruling Biju Janata Dal’s vote bank with women faithfully voting for the party election after election. The government, too, realises the importance of the initiative without which a large work force would have remained confined within the four walls of their homes.
It is extremely important to ensure that women come out of their houses and contribute meaningfully to the development of the economy as well as our society. The chief minister deserves kudos for taking the initiative in this regard and if his party reaps some political benefits in the process let us not complain about it.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)