August 12, 2021
This event is very important when the country is celebrating the Amrit Mahotsav of its independence. Our self-made woman power is going to infuse a new energy to the AatmaNirbhar Bharat campaign in the next few years. Talking to you has inspired me today too. Present in today’s program are my colleagues from the Union Cabinet, respected Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ministers of State Governments, MPs, MLAs, Chairmen and members of Zilla Parishads (District Councils), crores of sisters and daughters associated with self-help groups from about 3 lakh locations of the country, and all other gentlemen!
Brothers and sisters,
When I was talking to the sisters associated with self-help groups, I could sense their confidence. You must have also noticed their urge to move forward, their spirit to do something, and it is really inspiring for all of us. This gives us a vision of the energetic movement of woman power across the country.
The way our sisters served the countrymen through self-help groups during the Corona period is unprecedented. Your contribution in making masks and sanitizers, delivering food to the needy and spreading awareness, is incomparable. I also congratulate our crores of sisters who are taking forward the development of the country while providing a better life to their families simultaneously.
A huge financial help has been released today to widen the scope of entrepreneurship among women and their greater participation in the resolve of self-reliant India. An amount of more than 1600 crore rupees has been transferred to lakhs of self-help groups involved in food processing enterprises and women farmers producer unions. May this amount released ahead of Raksha Bandhan bring happiness in the lives of crores of sisters and your businesses flourish! You have my best wishes.
Self-help groups and Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana are heralding a new revolution in rural India today. The women self-help groups are the torch-bearers of this movement. This movement of women self-help groups has strengthened in the last 6-7 years. About eight crore sisters are associated with about 70 lakh self-help groups across the country. During the last 6-7 years, SHGs have increased more than three times and participation of sisters has also increased by three times. This is important because for many years the financial empowerment of the sisters was not ensured as much as it should have been. When our government was formed, we found that there were crores of sisters who did not even have a bank account as they were kept away from the banking system. Therefore, we began a huge campaign to open Jan Dhan accounts. Today there are more than 42 crore Jan Dhan accounts in the country and about 55 percent of these accounts belong to our mothers and sisters. Thousands of crores of rupees are deposited in these accounts. Instead of putting their savings in the kitchen boxes as was the norm earlier, the money is now being deposited in the bank accounts.
Brothers and sisters,
We opened bank accounts and also made it easy to take loans from banks. On one hand, lakhs of women entrepreneurs were provided easy loans without guarantee under the Mudra scheme; on the other hand, there was a significant increase in loans without guarantee to self-help groups. The amount of help that the government has extended to the sisters under the National Livelihood Mission is many times more than the previous government. Moreover, loans of about Rs. 3.75 lakh crore without guarantee have also been made available to self-help groups.
It is also very important to mention the honesty and efficiency of our sisters. In these seven years, self-help groups have also done a remarkable job in repaying their bank loans. As Giriraj ji informed, there was a time when close to 9 percent of the bank loans used to be defaulted. In other words, this amount was never returned. It has now come down to about two-and-a-half percent. Today the nation is acknowledging your entrepreneurship and honesty. Therefore, another important decision has been made. Where earlier these self-help groups used to get loans without guarantee up to Rs 10 lakh, now this limit has been doubled to Rs. 20 lakh. Earlier, when you used to visit the bank to take a loan, the bank would ask you to link your savings account with the loan and also ask you to deposit some money. Now this condition has also been waived off. With many such efforts, you will now be able to move forward in the self-reliance campaign with greater enthusiasm.
This is the time to set new goals and move forward with new energy during the 75 years of independence. Now the collective power of sisters also has to be taken forward with new vigor. The government is constantly creating the conditions which can help our sisters connect villages with prosperity. Agriculture and agro-based industry has always been an area where there are endless possibilities for women self-help groups. A special fund has been created for starting storage and cold chain facilities in villages, installing farming machines, setting up plants to prevent wastage of milk, fruits and vegetables and many other such initiatives. Self-help groups can also set up these facilities by taking help from this fund. Moreover, the members can make monetary benefits by setting up these facilities and can also rent them to others at reasonable rates. Our government is also promoting special training to women farmers and creating awareness. So far, about 1.25 crore farmers and animal husbandry sisters have been benefited by this. The new agricultural reforms will not only benefit the country’s agriculture and our farmers, but there are also immense possibilities for self-help groups. Now you can collaborate with farmers in the fields and get cereals and pulses delivered at homes. We have seen this happening in many places during the Corona period. Now that you have the provision to mobilize storage facilities, there is no restriction on how much you can store. Now you have the option to sell the produce directly from the farm or by setting up a food processing unit and packaging the product well and then sell. Online is also becoming a big medium nowadays, which you should use more. You can collaborate with online companies and easily send your well-packaged products to cities. Moreover, you can visit the GeM portal and sell the products directly to the government according to its requirements.
The government is also promoting toys made in India and is also providing all possible help in this regard. In fact, the sisters of our tribal areas are traditionally associated with it. There is also a lot of potential for self-help groups. Similarly, the campaign is going on to make the country free from single use plastic. We just heard from our sisters from Tamil Nadu. The figure given by Sister Jayanti was very inspiring for everybody. Self-help groups have a dual role in this. Not only do you have to raise awareness against the single use plastic, but work for its alternative. You can make jute or other attractive bags instead of plastic bags. A system is in place for about two-three years so that you can sell your goods directly to the government. As I said earlier, self-help groups can also take full advantage of the Government e-Market Place.
Today there are increasing opportunities for the sisters and daughters of the country to move forward in the changing environment. All the sisters are being connected with facilities like house, toilet, electricity, water, gas, etc. The government is also working with full sensitivity on the education, health, nutrition, vaccination and other needs of sisters and daughters. It has not only enhanced the dignity of women, but the confidence of daughters and sisters has also increased. We can see this confidence from the playground, to the science-technology and to the battlefield. These are good signs for self-reliant India. Now you have to link this self-confidence and your efforts of nation building with Amrit Mahotsav also. The Amrit Mahotsav of freedom to commemorate 75 years of independence will continue till August 15, 2023. The collective power of more than eight crore sisters and daughters will take Amrit Mahotsav to new heights. Now that you are making financial progress, can you consider taking up some social work as women groups? It will not involve any monetary transaction, but there will be a spirit of service which has a lot of influence in social life. For example, you can run a campaign and create awareness regarding malnutrition in your area and about the problems faced by sisters and our young daughters in the age group of 12-16 due to malnutrition. Right now the country is running a vaccination campaign against corona. Free vaccines are being given to all. You should vaccinate yourself when your turn comes and inspire other people of your villages to do the same.
You can decide in your villages that you will devote 75 hours in a year on the occasion of 75 years of independence from this 15th August to 15th August next year, for a particular cause. I am not asking for more. The sisters of these self-help groups can run campaigns on cleanliness, water conservation, repair of wells and ponds etc. You can call doctors in a month or two and hold an open meeting to brief the women about the diseases and their health. It will be of great help to all the sisters and there will be awareness. A good lecture can also be organized for the care of children. You should undertake some tours in any month. I think the sister groups who are involved in their work should visit once a year to see if similar work is being carried out somewhere else on a large scale. You should hire a bus and see for yourself and learn. It benefits a lot. You can visit a big dairy plant or go to a cow dung plant or a solar plant nearby. Just now we heard about plastic, you can go there and see how Jayanti ji is working there. You have just seen a bakery and biscuits made in Uttarakhand. You can visit it and learn a lot. It does not cost much, but your confidence will grow. What you will learn will also be very important for the country. What I want to say is that along with what you are doing, take time out for some charity work so that society also realizes that you are doing some welfare work.
It is through your efforts that the nectar of the success of Amrit Mahotsav will spread everywhere and the country will benefit. Imagine the huge outcomes that can result from the collective power of 8 crore women of India and how far it can take the country forward. I would urge these eight crore mothers and sisters to consider teaching any such sister or mother in their groups who does not know how to read or write. You don’t need to do much, but your little effort and time can be a great service. Those sisters can later teach others. There is so much to learn from you when I was listening to you and I also felt that I could also learn a lot from you. In spite of the difficult situations, you are moving ahead with so much self-confidence. Despite the problems in your personal life, you did not give up and did something new. Each and every word of the mothers and sisters of the country is very inspiring for everybody, including myself. I wish good health to all the sisters. May your blessings be there for the forthcoming Raksha Bandhan and inspire us to do more. I now give a pause to my speech while wishing you a very happy Raksha Bandhan in advance.