UPSC Notes: Economic Empowerment Of Weaker Sections

Weaker sections of society such as scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, women, disabled, children, elderly, etc. need special provisions and measures by the government to pull them out of their disadvantaged position. In general, members of such groups suffer many socio-economic difficulties such as inadequate access to healthcare, nutrition, educational facility, inaccessibility to government-sponsored schemes and measures. Therefore, the government of the day has to ensure that the fruits of development reach these people as well through special provisions and schemes tailored especially for their benefit. Vulnerable sections also include people suffering from certain diseases notably HIV/AIDS, cancer, and also sexual minorities.

Special provision for weaker sections of the society

The government provides various schemes for the weaker or vulnerable sections of society to improve the condition of their lives by offering them educational facilities, employment opportunities, livelihoods, affordable healthcare access and other necessary amenities. Some of them, focus on economic empowerment, are described below.

Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS)

  • SRMS was started in 2007 with an objective to rehabilitate the remaining manual scavengers and their dependents in alternate occupations.
  • Features include one-time cash assistance, training with a stipend and concessional loans with a subsidy for engaging in alternate occupation.

National Scheduled Castes Finance & Development Corporation (NSFDC)

  • This scheme has an objective to “fight poverty through entrepreneurship”.
  • Incorporated in 1989, NSFDC operates under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to finance, facilitate and mobilise funds for the economic empowerment of people belonging to the SC category and living below double the poverty line.
  • It finances income generation schemes for the target audience.
  • Eligibility criteria for this scheme: SC community + family income below double the poverty line (DPL – less than Rs.98000 for rural and less than Rs.120000 for urban candidates).

National Safai Karamcharis Finance & Development Corporation (NSKFDC)

  • Established in 1997 and operating under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, NSKFDC works as an apex organisation for the all-around socio-economic upliftment of the Safai Karamcharis, Scavengers and their dependents all over India, through various loan and non-loan based schemes.
  • The scheme promotes economic development activities of the safai karamcharis.
  • It also promotes self-employment ventures for them.
  • The scheme also helps safai karamcharis in income generating schemes by way of loans, subsidies, advances, or grants.
  • The scheme extends loans to students from the community for pursuing professional or technical education.
  • It also engages in promoting training, quality control, technology up-gradation, and common facility centres for carrying out sanitation works.
  • It helps in upskilling of personnel from the community in technical and entrepreneurial skills.
  • The scheme also assists self-employed members of the community in procuring raw materials or other outputs or in marketing finished goods and services in units set up by them.

Assistance to Scheduled Castes Development Corporations (SCDCs)

The chief objectives of the SCDCs are identification of eligible SC families and encouraging them to take up economic development schemes, sponsoring the schemes to financial institutions for credit support, offering financial assistance in the form of the margin money at a low rate of interest, providing subsidy out of the funds made available to the States under the Scheme of Special Central Assistance to Special Component Plan of the States to reduce the repayment liability and giving the necessary link-up with other poverty alleviation programmes.

Scheme of Development of Primitive Tribal Groups

  • This scheme is for family-oriented income-generating schemes in the sectors of agriculture, minor irrigation, horticulture, animal husbandry, soil conservation, education, forests, fisheries, cooperatives, village and small scale industries, and for minimum needs programme.
  • Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) were identified based on certain criteria like the pre-agricultural level of technology, literacy level, and declining or stagnant populations.
  • The scheme includes infrastructure development, housing, land development, health, education, cattle and agriculture development, insurance, social security, etc.

Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (RGSEAG)

This offers assistance to adolescent girls in the following ways:

  1. Nutrition provision
  2. IFA (iron & folic acid) supplements
  3. Health check-up and referral services
  4. Nutrition and health education (NHE)
  5. Life skill education
  6. Accessing public services
  7. Guidance on family welfare, ARSH (Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Programme), home management and child care practices
  8. Vocational training for girls 16 and above under the National Skill Development Programme

STEP (Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women)

Launched in 1986-87 as a central scheme, STEP provides skills that give employability to women and to provide competencies and skills that enable women to become self-employed/entrepreneurs.

Stree Shakti Puraskaar Yojna

Instituted in 1991, this scheme awards women achievers on the occasion of the International Women’s Day (8th March) every year.

Objectives of this scheme are as under:

  1. To strengthen the economic development process of women in rural areas and create a conducive atmosphere for social change.
  2. To form one lakh Self Help Women Groups based on thrift and credit principles which inculcates self-reliance and enable women to have greater access to control over resources.
  3. Poverty alleviation by building confidence in rural women by involving them in income-generating activities.

Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSY)

Objectives of KSY (aimed at girl children):

  1. Providing literacy and numeracy skills by non-formal means of education.
  2. Stimulating desire for more social exposure and knowledge and thereby improving decision-making capabilities.
  3. Improving the nutritional, health and development status of adolescent girls.
  4. Promoting awareness on health, hygiene, family care and nutrition.
  5. Making available more opportunities for life-learning skills, training and equipping adolescent girls to improve home-based and vocational skills.
  6. Improve understanding of the social environment and help become productive members of society.

National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS)

This is a 100% centrally-sponsored scheme and is a part of the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP). Under this scheme, a lump sum of Rs.10000 is given to households under the poverty line upon the death of the primary breadwinner due to natural or accidental causes.

National Old Age Pension Scheme

Under this scheme, a person 65 years or older, will be eligible to receive Rs.75 per month if he/she is found destitute with little or no means of subsistence by himself/herself or through family members.

This article discussed some of the prominent economic empowerment schemes run by the Indian government for weaker sections of society. This is a very relevant topic for UPSC as it comes under social issues, polity, economy, and indeed, is a multidisciplinary subject. It is important to keep reading newspaper articles and editorials on this subject as it can be asked directly or indirectly in the IAS exam. Candidates should also prepare points for the essay paper on this topic, as it is a potential topic. Since there is a plethora of information on this subject, candidates should keep a note of all the points and material they have on this subject neatly classified.

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