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Year 2014: New initiatives dot India’s development map

Dec 29, 2014

Apart from repurposing the old welfare schemes, the Indian government launches new initiatives

Jan Dhan Scheme

New Delhi: The change of guard in the government witnessed by India after a decade is also getting reflected on the country’s development map. In the last six months, the new government in India has been working to bring about some changes in the existing system, particularly with the launch of schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna, and the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan for achieving progressive goals of financial inclusion and total sanitation.  The focus is also on digitising India and eradication of the practice of open-defecation, especially in rural pockets.

The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana has been launched to realise the idea of comprehensive financial inclusion, which is intended to bring employment to poor people and also to raise their transaction capacity. The nation-wide-scheme has its seeds in the challenging idea of including millions of citizens in the financial system as it targets to provide universal access to banking facilities.

Taking on the twin challenges of health and sanitation, the Indian Prime Minister gave a clarion call for a Clean India on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday on 2nd October, 2014 through his Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign. Some of the key components of the Clean India campaign include providing access to piped water, well-functioning drainage, sewage and solid waste management in all cities and villages.

To encourage participation on the ground level, several influential personalities from different fields like films, sports and politics like Sachin Tendulkar, Priyanka Chopra, Salman Khan and Kamal Haasan have been roped in. The campaign also found immense support from institutions like the Indian Army, the Indian Air Force and the Border Security Force.

Similarly, the campaign on Digital India aims to provide government services to citizens all over India including in remote areas where mobile phone is used to make an instant connect between people and the government.

The government endeavours to achieve this digitisation through its nine pillars including Broadband Highways, Universal Access to Phones, Public Internet Access Programmes, E-governance, eKranti or Electronic delivery of services, Information for All, Electronic manufacturing, IT for Jobs and Early Harvest Programmes.

Even as the development scenario in the new dispensation takes shape in the form of Digital India and Clean India campaigns, Amendments are being made to flagship schemes of the previous governments aimed at rural communities, women, the unemployed and sustainable urban development.

Social welfare schemes and Acts like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), the scheme on women Self Help Groups (SHGs) and the Land Acquisition Act have been modified in one way or the other. Even as the government is claiming to have altered the schemes on the basis of past experiences, and in the best interest of beneficiaries, the debate about the possible outcomes is ongoing.

A Central scheme aimed at assuring fixed period of employment to poor families, called the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), was initiated to enhance the livelihood security in rural areas. The new government has proposed amendments like restricting the area of work, and altering the labour-material cost ratio. But eventually, after widespread protests by various groups including eminent economists and political parties of diverse hues, the changes were shelved.

With the idea of improving the existing urban areas, and a vision for dotting the country with smart cities, the government is in the process replacing JNNURM with a new initiative that will focus on modern concept for cities planned using GIS (Geographical Information Systems), improved transport facilities and a proper system for solid and liquid waste management.

The funds allocated for the new mission are to be utilized for developing new cities along with upgrading infrastructure in the existing ones.

The government has also proposed some Amendments to be made to the Land Acquisition Act-2013, and make it more industry friendly raising eyebrows in rural communities, especially farmers. The government is mulling to dilute the compensation clause which is one of the key tenets of the Act. This clause requires acquirers to pay four times the market price in rural areas and twice the market price in urban areas to land owners.

With the intention of empowering women, the new government is also in the process of merging two financial institutions, the Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) and the Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK), a credit scheme targeting women Self Help groups (SHGs).

The revamped scheme will not merely provide loans to SHGs, but will also teach women to make investments, market their skills and products and manage enterprises. RMK is being restructured into a bank that will focus on giving loans to individual women after providing them training in various fields. The ministry has already tied up with the ministry of small industries, which has allotted Rs 3,000 crore for skill building of women.

Promising as they sound, in theory, the real test for the new experiments will be judged at the altar of practical application of the alternative measures and the results they deliver for the common man and woman.

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