Sunday, Dec 14, 2003
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By Prafulla Das
Since the Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, launched the programme on March 8, 2001 International Women's Day about 97,000 of these groups having 12.4 lakh members have come up in the State, signalling a quiet but firm change.
What started as a routine government programme to empower women in the State's interiors could have remained another development slogan. But it is not so now. Mr. Patnaik, who took two things seriously fighting corruption and improving the lot of the 1.80 crore women in the State kept an unwavering watch on the mission. "The Mission Shakti campaign has taken the form of a social movement,'' observes Monalisa Jena, Assistant Director of the mission.
Although 34,000 SHGs were already working in the State by the time the mission started, the number skyrocketed to 96,661 by September-end. Of these, 40,203 have been provided bank loans for Rs. 68 crores. Besides, savings of Rs. 45.85 crores has been deposited by these groups in banks.
The mission, which works in close coordination with the district administrations, voluntary organisations, U.N. agencies and departments such as SC/ST Development and Panchayati Raj, has conducted district-level training in two phases first on SHG promotion and management and the second on financial management. A sub-committee, headed by the Secretary of the Women and Child Development Department of the State Government, has been formed to review the progress for linkage of the groups by various banks.
According to Ms. Jena, federations of SHGs have come up in 16 districts and efforts are on to start such federations in the remaining 14 districts.
Most of these groups have taken up income generation activities such as piggery, pisciculture and dairy traditionally dominated by men. Other male-dominated spheres such as horticulture, manning PDS outlets and execution of labour intensive works have also been taken over by these groups.
They are also actively involved in social welfare activities such as immunisation, cleaning of villages, roads, ponds, repairing of tubewells and artificial insemination of animals.
When the mission was launched, the Government had set for it a target of forming and promoting one lakh women SHGs by 2005. But the mission is about to fulfil its target in less than three years, fuelling speculation that it may be ended in 2005, when Mr. Patnaik's tenure gets over.
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