Over the last three years, we have witnessed a fundamental shift in the narrative of social justice for the marginalized. The focus has moved from the politics of welfarism and entitlement to a more participatory model of empowerment. By all means, the Government of India (GoI) is effectively exploring multiple facets of empowerment for the socially deprived sections of the society. This article outlines certain observations about the steps taken by the present regime to actualize the pristine objective of social justice and holistic development of the last man in the village, which is reflective of the eternal commitment to the principles ofAntyodaya. The annual financial statements of the government since the last three years have reaffirmed its commitment to strengthen the rural economy and indigenous infrastructure that lies at the core of our villages. It is indicative of the commitment reiterated by the Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi on more than one occasions. Since the inception of the current government, he has made his intentions clear that the core agenda of the government will remain, “welfare of the marginalized”.
Social Justice remains a vital cornerstone of our constitution. Within the dichotomy of development and justice, one should not ignore the core responsibilities of the state. As far as development is solely concerned, non-state actors are sufficiently equipped with the resources and wherewithal to carry out developmental activities, however more sustainable inclusion can only be realized with the intervention of the state. Here it becomes imperative to revisit the role of the state as an active enabler. It is therefore opined that the State’s role is critical and should not be minimized. Disinvestment and abrupt privatization should be transparently debated and discussed as profit making and revenue generation leads to immense competition and ‘survival of the fittest’ syndrome. Those on the fringes of the society may not be able to compete in the extremely demanding circumstances of the corporate world. Hence one of the paramount challenges is to create an amicable atmosphere to enable ease of doing business for these sections of the society.
Here comes the idea of ‘Subaltern Entrepreneurship’ which aims to equip the subaltern skill base with the requisite support system comprising of financial and regulatory facilities. One is aware of the fact that, government jobs are shrinking and in any case, too much reliance on the government jobs might not be a desirable proposition. India has been traditional preservers of various skills and crafts such as shoe making, embroidery, polishing, handlooms etc. It is in the area of Skill Development that one must evolve ways to match the existing skills sets amongst citizens with the ever increasing demands of the globalized world. Policies facilitated by actions must ensure adequate representation of the weaker sections in co-operatives, corporates and civil societies through well-organized interfaces as well as through engagements at both institutional as well as at individual levels. This is where the present government is invested in this regard.
Financial inclusion is the delivery of financial services at affordable costs to the economically weaker and the lower-income segments of society. True to this, GoI has taken several initiatives on the social sector front, all of which are potentially game-changers in the realm of social sector policy canvas. An actionable policy armed with inclusive growth is the need of the hour and the present government is successfully executing several schemes and programmes on this premise.
The key initiatives undertaken by the Union Government for social and economic security are enumerated below:-
- Financial Inclusion of the Poor: Prime Minister Jan Dhan Yojana. This is a very significant scheme that strives to end Financial Untouchability by ensuring that the economically weaker sections have access to bank accounts.
- Expansion of Social Security Net. This has been achieved through Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (Accident Insurance), Atal Pension Yojana (Unorganized Sector) and Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Yojana (Life Insurance), which provide social and economic security to the marginalized sections of the society.
- Institutional Support for Subaltern Entrepreneurship. This has been achieved through MUDRA Bank, to provide microfinance to entrepreneurs in rural hinterland of India. National Hub for SC/ST entrepreneurs has been created to support the entrepreneurs coming from the marginalized communities.
Mudra loan for Financial Year: 2015-2016
No. of Mudra Loans Sanctioned to Micro Units – Rs 3,48, 80,924 (3.48 Cr)
Amount Sanctioned: Rs 1, 37,449.27 Crore
Amount Disbursed: Rs 1, 32,954.73 Crore
Social Category Mudra Loan Beneficiary: Fact Sheet
|Social Category||No. Of Loans 2015-16 (Shishku/Kumar/Tarun)||% Of Total Mudra Loan(3.48 Cr)||Disbursement Amt in Rs. Cr.|
*Source – mudra.org.in Complied by DICCI Secretariat
- ‘Venture Capital Fund for Scheduled Caste Entrepreneurs’. The objective of this Scheme is to promote entrepreneurship among the Scheduled Castes and to provide concessional finance to them. The scheme would be implemented by the Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI) Limited for which Rs. 200 cores has been allotted.
- Credit Enhancement Guarantee Scheme for the Scheduled Castes: The objective of the Scheme is to promote entrepreneurship amongst the scheduled castes and to facilitate concessional finances to them. A budget of Rs. 200 crores has been allocated to IFCI Limited to facilitate the scheme.
- Swachhta Udyami Yojana: As an integral part of ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ launched by the Prime Minister on 2nd October, 2014, the National Safai Karamcharis Finance & Development Corporation(NSFDC) has launched a new Scheme ‘Swachhta Udyami Yojana’ for financing viable community toilet projects and sanitation related vehicles to collect garbage.
- Green Business Scheme: The scheme has been started by NSFDC, with the aim of promoting green businesses to support sustainable livelihoods of Scheduled Castes and Safai Karamcharis. Financial assistance would be provided for those economic activities that could address the challenges of climate change, e.g., E-rickshaw, solar pumps and other instruments working on solar energy etc.
- Sanitary Mart Scheme. Launched in 2014-15, under the scheme, loans are provided to up to Rs. 15 Lakhs to Safai Karamcharis for construction of toilets/bio-degradable toilets.
- Stand up India– This scheme was recently launched to boost the spirit of entrepreneurship among the most vulnerable groups of the society. The specific groups are Scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and women. Under the umbrella of this scheme every single branch of a public sector bank is asked to support one entrepreneur each from women and SC/St. category.
- Declaration of Panchtirth by GoI- The government of India has decided to dedicate 5 key places related with Babasaheb as Panchtirth which means places of pilgrimage to inspire the present generation Dalits. The state government of Madhya Pradesh has established a grand memorial at Mhow, the birthplace of Babasaheb. Government of Maharashtra has purchased the house situated at 10, King Henry Road in London where Babasaheb pursued his higher education. This was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi during his visit to the city in 2015.
These schemes clearly highlight that the present government is committed to the cause of upliftment of Dalits and other disadvantaged sections of the population. As outlined, various landmark initiatives have been initiated under the present regime to eliminate poverty and empower the weaker sections of the society
*Author is working as a Senior Research Fellow and Project Head at India Foundation, New Delhi.
Views expressed in the article are author’s own