May 23 marked the completion of two years of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coming to power under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The party celebrated in style, with the scale of celebrations also running into a controversy. During the 2014 General Elections, one of the party’s most popular slogans had revolved around women’s safety. “Bahut hua naari par atyaachaar, ab ki baar Modi sarkar! (Persecution of women has gone for long enough. Now it’s time for Modi sarkar),” was a constant refrain heard on the radio, seen on billboards and advertised in newspapers. Ensuring women’s safety and drafting policies for women was one of the major planks on which the current NDA government fought (and won) the elections.
Here, we take a look at the policies launched by the Modi government for the betterment of women and how they’ve fared.
“Today, we renew our pledge to make women an equal and integral part of our development journey. My government has initiated several measures aimed at bringing about a positive change in the lives of women. That is central to our vision of India’s progress and a life of dignity and opportunity for all our citizens,” the Prime Minister had said on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
1) Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana
Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save girl child, educate girl child) scheme was launched in 100 districts across the country on January 22, 2015 at Panipat in Haryana, something that has maximum recall value because of the viral ‘Selfie with Daughter’ hashtag campaign. It aims to end female foeticide and discrimination against girl child and improve the efficiency of welfare services meant for women. The scheme was initiated with an initial corpus of Rs 100 crore. A reward of Rs 1 crore was also announced for the “innovative” village that attains a balanced sex ratio. The ambitious programme has brought about improvements in certain aspects, including ensuring 100 percent institutional deliveries, and curbing the practice of sending new-born girls to orphanages, in the 100 districts where it was implemented
2) The Himmat app
“Our heads hang in shame when we hear of instances of crime against women. We must walk shoulder-to-shoulder to end all forms of discrimination or injustice against women,” the Prime Minister had said in a message on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
In this light, mobile app Himmat was launched by Home Minister Rajnath Singh on January 1, 2015. The app is freely available for Android mobile phones and can be downloaded from Delhi Police website. The app helps women raise an SOS alert in case of any emergency. This would get reported along with victim/caller location in real time on the computer consoles placed in the Central Police Control Room, Delhi. The app aims to instill confidence in women, to help women in distress and to ensure their safety in Delhi.
However, only four months after the launch of Himmat, data revealed that of 3,416 complaints received by the app only 45 complaints were ‘genuine’. The Delhi Police said in most of the complaints, people were just making sure if the app was working. Some people had even forwarded obscene video clips on the app. A separate helpline number on WhatsApp, also called Himmat, was launched on February 25. While the app received 3,416 SOS calls, 19,027 texts were received on the helpline till June 3. However, The Indian Express had reported that only 45 complaints were genuine.
3) Sukanya Samriddhi Account
Sukanya Samriddhi Account is a special deposit account under the Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana (girl child prosperity scheme) and was launched by Modi on January 22, 2015 as a part of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign. The scheme currently provides an interest rate of 8.6 percent and tax benefits. The account can be opened at any India Post office or a branch of some authorised commercial banks. Within two months of the launch, 1,80,000 accounts had been opened under the scheme with the States of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh reporting the highest number of new accounts.
4) 33 percent reservation in police force
With a view to enhance women’s representation in central paramilitary forces, the government decided to reserve 33 percent posts at constable level in CRPF and CISF for women, Rajya Sabha was informed on April 28, 2016. It was considered a move that holds the promise of addressing the issue of gender insensitivity in the police force. Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said the government has also decided to fill 14-15 percent posts at constable level in border-guarding forces like BSF, SSB and ITBP. Replying to supplementaries, the Minister said the process of raising 29 additional battalions of BSF has been completed while the process of raising the strength of CRPF by adding another 38 battalions in a phased manner is underway.
5) Swacch Bharat Abhiyan
Construction of toilets under Prime Minister Modi’s dream project, much-loved Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, gained momentum with 7.1 lakh individual household toilets being built in January 2015, the highest for any month since the project was launched in October 2015, government data showed. However, the government missed it target of constructing 1.2 crore toilets in the fiscal year.
6) Rape Crisis Centre
The Modi government downsized its first large-scale initiative for women, trimming the plan for a rape crisis centre in every district to one centre per State and Union territory. Previously, Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had suggested 660 Nirbhaya Centres – one each in the 640 districts and another 20 in the six metros. However it was later downsized to just 36 and the locations were decided by the individual States and Union territories. The budget for the project was also slashed from Rs 244.48 crore to Rs 18 crore. This move was largely criticised for defying the very cause for which it was created.
“If a woman is raped in Jaisalmer, say, she will not go to a crisis centre in Jaipur,” Jagmati Sangwan of the All India Democratic Women’s Association argued.
7) Budget 2016
There was very little said about women or women entrepreneurs in the Budget 2016. Apart from allocating Rs 500 crore towards women and SC/ST entrepreneurs, the allocation of a 33 percent sub-quota for women under all reserved categories in the Railway Budget, and LPG connections of Rs 2,000 crore for rural women, few details and policies that can help women have changed or been addressed. However, there has been appraisal of the Rs 200 crore Central Victim Compensation Fund out of the Nirbhaya Fund to support the states for the implementation of victim compensation. There has also been a Rs 324-crore scheme appraised by the Ministry for Women and Child Development for the creation of Investigative Units for Crime Against Women (IUCAW).
The Prime Minister has instilled a sense of gender equality through his cabinet consisting of 25 percent of women, which is 11 percent more than the previous government. This sends a resounding message that it will take cooperative efforts from both genders as well as effective implementation of government policies to help establish true change that is sorely needed for a country as diverse as India. There is great hope to “push the reset button” and to ensure that gains in women’s rights, not reductions, are par for the course under this government.