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Editorial Articles

2-8 June, 2018

Empowering the Marginalised for Inclusive Growth and Social Justice

Swadesh Singh
Devi Dayal Gautam

In the last four years, the Narendra  Modi-led government at the Centre has shown its tireless commitment for an egalitarian society by bringing various sections of the society together. The government has made many provisions and has came up with several policies and programs in the field of education and employment to empower the vulnerable, deprived and depressed sections of the society and ensure social justice and harmony.
Keeping in mind that government jobs are limited, the Modi government has tried to provide support to such sections in setting up their own business so that they can earn their livelihood as well as create jobs for others – thus creating a cycle of self-empowerment. The government has been trying to ensure ‘ease of living’ for the deprived sections by providing basic social and physical infrastructural facilities at cheaper rates. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has boldly envisioned a ‘New India’ by 2022, work for which was started four years ago by empowering and ensuring social justice for the deprived sections of the society.
New way of Empowerment
After Independence, we accepted a group-based approach for the socio-economic development and empowerment of weaker sections of society. Our Constitution makers provided for reservation of SCs, STs and OBCs. They believed that equality will be actualised  by ensuring reservation in the field of education and employment and rest of the problems will be resolved automatically. However, due to various reasons, this did not happen. We need to now come up with new strategies to empower the deprived and marginalised communities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken the right initiative in this direction by trying to come up with out of the box solutions. In one of his speeches at Bijapur while inaugurating Ayushmann Bharat scheme, he said: ‘One cannot reach a new destination while following the old path. New goals cannot be achieved with old techniques; our government is working with a new approach.’ 
Soon after the formation of the present Government, Jan-Dhan Scheme was launched to aggressively push the process of financial inclusion of those who still did not have bank accounts. Bank accounts opened under this scheme, mostly include those of people from deprived and marginalised sections. These people did not have an account though they needed it the most. Now money from different government schemes is directly channelised into their bank account removing intermediaries and leakage. Similarly, under the Prime Minister Mudra Scheme, loans were granted to lakhs of people – comprising a majority of women, Dalits and backwards.
Promoting Entrepreneurship
Under Stand Up scheme, financial help was provided to Dalits, tribals and women to start their own greenfield enterprises. Under the scheme, each of the 1.25 lakh bank branches were  expected to facilitate two such entrepreneurs and help them set up business. This scheme has helped the talented and educated youth from weaker sections to start their own business and become entrepreneurs. To boost Dalit entrepreneurs, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment also established Dalit Venture Capital Fund. Set up with an initial capital of Rs 200 crore, this scheme has also benefited Dalit entrepreneurs hugely.
The Finance Minister allocated Rs 56,619 crore for the development of Dalits and Rs 39,135 crores for tribals in the current budget. Mudra Scheme has been another milestone in financial inclusion. Under this scheme lakhs of people have been provided loans. Looking at the success of this scheme, its total outlay was increased to Rs 3 lakh crore in the current budget.
The current government is working with the view that when jobs are limited in numbers, one must turn to entrepreneur-ship to fill the gap. With this in mind, the government is, hence, drafting policies that are now giving positive results. Schemes like Mudra and Stand Up have empowered lakhs of Dalit and backward youth. National Safai Karmachari Commission has also started a scheme where entrepreneurs associated with cleanliness mission would be given support in their businesses.
Constitutional Provisions
The government has made stringent norms to curb Dalit atrocities to engender an environment of safety and freedom. The Government has also introduced 123rd amendment which will make sure that the new commission for socio-economically backwards would be more powerful and serve the interests of the community effectively.
The Modi government has declared five places related with the life of Dr. Ambedkar as ‘Panch Teerth’ and has been developing them. Dr. Ambedkar International Centre is being established as an academic research centre to promote Ambedkar’s values and research about marginalised sections. An interactive museum is being built at the Delhi house of Dr Ambedkar which is now known as Dr. Ambedkar National Memorial. The place where Dr. Ambedkar lived in London was also bought by the government. The birth anniversary (14 April) of Dr Ambedkar has declared as National Harmony Day. Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry has started a scheme to send 100 scholars to two places abroad related to Dr. Ambedkar to inspire them. These two places are in Chicago and London where Dr Ambedkar studied in early 20th century.
Though women have excelled in different fields and their situation has improved yet there is a huge number of women who still need attention and intervention by government. Earlier, it was very hard for uneducated rural women to avail benefits of government schemes. Infact, there were no effective schemes for such women before Modi government. In the last four years, many schemes have been started under the popular Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign. The Finance Minister declared the success of Sukanya Samridhi Yojana which was started under this campaign. This scheme was started in 2015 and in just two years, more than 1.26 crore bank accounts were opened for girls in which a total sum of Rs. 19,183 crore has been deposited.
Modi Government also started an ambitious scheme named Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana  for women living below poverty line under which these women were to be provided with gas cylinders. Till now, around 5 crore women have benefitted from this scheme. The target up to 2019 has now been increased to 8 crore women.
Along with Dalits, Tribals and OBCs, the Central Government has also identified sections that were neglected for decades.  The government has come up with effective and specific policies and programs for these groups.
The Government now uses the term ‘Divyang’ for physically handicapped people. Several mega-camps have been organised to distribute artificial limbs, hearing aids, tricycles etc among the needy. From 1992 to 2014, only 100 such camps were organised, but in two years from 2014 to 2016, more than hundred such camps were organised. Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi participated in two such camps that got mention in Guinness World Records where more than 10000 people were given such equip-ments. Under Sugamya Bharat program, government buildings were made accessible for Divyangs through smart and thoughtful design interventions. Collected works of Dr Ambedkar were translated into Braille script to make them accessible to people with visual impairments.
Senior Citizens
The increase in life expectancy has meant change in age demographics of the country and an increasing senior population. The central government has started many schemes and programs for senior citizens and increased the funds of various schemes by 70% to 80%.
In 2014-15 and 2015-16, Rs 42 crores were spent on 41,000 senior citizens and in 2016-17, Rs 29 crores were spent under different schemes for seniors. The National Policy on Senior Citizens is also being changed with changing socio-economic requirements and social values. Every year, senior citizens are rewarded for their efforts in different fields through Vayo Shri awards. The Ministry of Social Justice and Ministry of Health have also teamed up to provide senior citizens with smart card linked to Aadhar that will help them to avail several health care benefits.
Nomadic Tribes
The government has set up a Commission to solve the problems of the nomadic tribes. One scheme named after Nanaji Deshmukh has also been started to establish hostels for the youth of this community.
Pre-metric students from Dalit and other  socio-economically backward communities have been given substantial scholarships. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, as many as 49, 24,700 students were given scholarships to the tune of Rs 1,038.73 crore. In 2016-17, nearly Rs 344.28 crore were distributed among more than 13 lakh Dalit students. Around 50 lakh OBC students were given scholarships of Rs 230 crore in 2014-15 and 2015-16. In 2016-17, these scholarships were amounted to Rs. 106 crore. Similarly, Dalit and OBC youth who are getting higher education were also given fellowships with increased numbers like never before.
Basic Infrastructure for Marginalised
Many schemes have been started by the Central Government for providing better facilities to poor, deprived and marginalised section of the society. On 14 April, 2018, Prime Minister Modi launched the world’s biggest health scheme Ayushmann Bharat to provide health facilities to the deprived sections.
The first health and wellness centre under Ayushmann Bharat scheme was inaugurated by him in Naxal-affected Bijapur district of Chattisgarh. Government will run 1.5 lakh such health and wellness centres in different part of India. The target of this scheme is to provide health facilities to 10 crore families which means 50 crore people. These people will be covered under health insurance of Rs 5 lakh. The government is already running 800 Jan Aushadhi Kendras where more than 800 life saving drugs on cheaper rates can be bought.
Fighting the entrenched belief that sanitation is a luxury, the government has come up with a much-needed scheme to help poor people build toilets. More than 6 crore such toilets have been built in the past four years with a target of 2 crore more toilets for this year.
The government has also resolved to provide a house to every family and is working tirelessly to achieve this target. In his budget speech, the Finance Minister said that 51 lakh such houses would be built this year. In the current budget, Rs 14 lakh crore were allocated for the development of basic infrastructure. The government has also started Pradhan Mantri Soubhagya Yojana to resolve the problem of poor power supply. Under this scheme, four crore families would be given electricity costing Rs 16,000 crore. 
Working in Backward Districts
For decades in India, caste has been considered as one of the central criteria of backwardness and all affirmative action policies revolved around this idea making such identities even more firm. Realising this, the Modi government decided to consider district as the basis of backward-ness. If the district is backward and not connected then everyone living in there would be backward. Under this, 115 districts have been identified and separate schemes have been prepared for their development. In January, 2018, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi met the District Magistrate of these districts to ensure effective implementation of these schemes.
With a view to providing life of ease for everyone, the Modi government is especially working for the vulnerable, deprived and marginalised sections. The government has set the target to double income of farmers by 2022 and towards this objective in the latest budget the Finance Minister promised to increase the minimum support price of crops by 1.5 times.
When the government was formed in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said this is a government of poor and marginalised sections of the society. A look at the government policies and programs reveals that for the last four years, the government has been working to address the problems of these sections. These multi-pronged efforts are beginning to yield fruits and the benefits are now reaching out to maximum people.
(Swadesh Singh teaches Political Science in Delhi University and Devi Dayal Gautam is associated with Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry of Government of India. Views expressed are personal.
e-mail: swadesh171@gmail.com)