New chapter of women’s development..
Just as education is the fundamental medium of man’s development, likewise economic development is the basis of all round progress. Every person has some innate qualities and entrepreneurial skills. Particularly, women have many skills and if their innate qualities and skills are developed through training and their capacity is enhanced, they can contribute immensely to the economic and social development of the state. ‘Bachat gat’ or saving group is the means of organizing those who have for centuries been deprived of development and. It aims to raise their standard of living. This is the best way of reaching economic independence to women. Women have been made self-dependent through saving, loan, exchange of money, bank accounts, sale of products and participation in the exhibition.
Besides, they have become financially and socially literate. Their self-esteem and self-confidence has increased. They have got integrated into the mainstream of economic system and a new chapter of their development has begun. Therefore, ‘bachat gat’ is no longer just a concept. On the other hand, it has become a powerful forum of change, I think. Be it prohibition or eradication of malnutrition, members of the saving group or ‘bachat gat’ are largely participating in the social work. Many women of bachat gat are also working as office-bearers of local self-governance bodies. Therefore, the contribution of members of bachat gat to the social and economic development is really increasing. With this noble aim, Mahalaxmi or Konkan Saras exhibitions are held in Mumbai. These exhibitions are held every year and get good response. 1800 to 2000 artisans showcase their artifacts and products in these exhibitions. Besides artifacts from various states, food stalls are also set up. Since last some years, the graph of these exhibitions is increasing. What began with the turnover of one crore rupees has now reached up to Rs 7 to 8 crore.
Today ‘bachat gat’ is no longer just a means of self-dependence. On the other hand, it has expanded and developed on a large scale. As many as 2.67 lakh bachat gats have been set up under Suvarna Jayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojna (Golden Jubilee Rural self-employment scheme) and Maharashra Rajya Gramin Jivanonnati Yojna (Maharashtra state rural life progress scheme). Out of these bachat gats, as many as 2.23 lakh belong to women. A grant of around Rs 1339 crore has been given to these bachat gats while loan worth Rs 2787 crore has been made available to them from the various banks. Besides making available loan to women’s bachat gats at 4 per cent, efforts have also been made to make available to them the markets to sell their products. A fund of Rs 2037 has been spent on their skill enhancement through training. Exhibitions of the products made by the bachat gats are being held at district, divisional and state levels. Rural Development Department has been building as many as 161 taluka sales centres. As many as 3 ‘village haats’ have been built in every district. Today’s age is the age of information technology.
The IT revolution has made the world a global village. Keeping this fact in view, an arrangement has been made for online marketing for the bachat gats in the state. Detailed information regarding all the bachat gats in Maharashtra and their products has been uploaded on the website “Grammart”. In the meantime, a buyer-seller meet was organised during the Mahalaxmi Saras exhibition. The meet generated year long orders for the bachat gats from malls in Mumbai, Pune and other municipal corporation limits. The capacity of bachat gats is being enhanced by setting up their federation. Priority has also been given by UMED to form the federation of bachat gats. Though capacity building process of the bachat gats has acquired pace through UMED, there persist certain challenges before the bachat gats like linking themselves with banks, ensuring more and more fiscal credit and maintaining the consistent quality of products, going extra mile to build business, among others. This is the age of marketing.
A need has arisen for attractive packaging and effective marketing of the bachat gat products and thereafter reaching them out to more and more people. There is need to think of producing high quality products, implementing expansive and effective training programme and making the products that meet the demands of the market. Now some bachat gats have started thinking of going for collective farming, Akashwani Kendra and agro-allied industries. Acting on the adage, ‘many a drop makes an ocean’, village women have come together. They have started saving and organizing themselves to start production of ‘papads, pickles and spices’. The journey which began with production of basic necessities has now reached across the seven seas. There is need to accelerate this process and explore more opportunities beyond the traditional businesses.
The state has increased the contribution of women to village development by giving them 50 percent reservation in the local self-governance bodies. Now it is mandatory to hold women’s meeting and ward meeting before holding the general Gram Sabha. Since it has been made obligatory to put before the Gram Sabha the issues discussed in the women’s meeting and consider them, the social issues like prohibition and eradication of malnutrition are figuring on the agenda of the Gram Sabha.
While providing equal opportunities and rights to women like men, Rural Development Department has adopted the central government’s directive principles to transfer the ownership of house under the Indira Housing scheme to women or in the name of both husband and wife. Under the Indira Housing Scheme, the families living below the poverty line are allotted a house. To ensure quality construction, the cost of per dwelling unit has been fixed at Rs 1 lakh from April 1, 2013.