To empower, enable, encourage
The State government has introduced several women-centric schemes in the last two years.
CHENNAI: The wheel of development turned a full cycle in Tamil Nadu recently when Chief Minister MK Stalin launched the game changer Kalaignar Magalir Urimai Thogai (KMUT) scheme in Kancheepuram on Friday.
The launch of the scheme depositing Rs 1,000 honorarium to 1.06 crore TN homemakers every month marked the paradigm shift in the welfare-scheme delivery in the State.
From once providing matrimonial and maternal assistance and providing meals to attend schools, the State run by successive Dravidian party governments has progressed as far as distributing honorarium to homemakers and distributing Rs 1,000 per month scholarship to girls in government schools to promote their education.
For instance, the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of the State (over 52%), against the national average of a little over 26%, a fact that makes many states and even many countries envy, was also a reason for redesigning the Moovalur Ramamirtham Ammayar Marriage assistance.
The scheme of providing money for marriage to women (school and graduate) has been redesigned in such a way that a girl in a government school (till Class 12) would be provided Rs 1,000 per month scholarship till she completed her higher education.
When a few political rivals questioned the redesign, it was revealed that the GER of women was marginally lower. Highly-placed government sources reasoned to this paper that the GER of women in the State was 5-6% less than the average. “Hence, to enable girls to pursue higher education, the scheme was redesigned,” the bureaucrat pointed out.
Likewise, the participation of women labourers in Tamil Nadu was much higher compared to any other State in the country. To promote that further, the State government introduced the free bus travel (Vidiyal Payanam) scheme to make women more mobile, and also remove the logistic hassles they face in employment, the officer argued.
“The greater benefit would be felt a few years later when the Rs 1,000 per month education assistance scheme, free travel, free breakfast for government school students and the KMUT work in tandem,” the officer added.
Scholars attribute the seismic shift in the policy framework of the welfare State to the development of the State and its social requirements.
AS Panneerselvam, fellow of Centre for Study in Public Scheme, Roja Muthiah Research Library and also the director of Panos South Asia, explained: “Whether a person perceives the money spent as an expenditure or investment decides his/her understanding of a government scheme. If a person sees it as a social investment, the benefit would be palpable. Schemes like the Rs 1,000 monthly honorarium create a social security. Also, it reduces women’s dependence on others. When we give them money for essential commodities, it will go for re-circulation. It will enter the society. And when it does, it would not be a locked up money. It will take our economy to the next level.”
Arguing that Tamil Nadu has always had clear vision with respect to social welfare schemes, Panneerselvam recalled the time when reservation was introduced by the Justice Party government.
“Even as early as the 1920s, they developed hostels for students to realise the benefit of reservation. When Anna promised three padi (a unit of measurement in Tamil equivalent to 750 gm) of rice, it created a vast public distribution network. It facilitated backward and forward integration for the schemes. Hence, every scheme is benefitting,” he opined. “Higher education was made free here. Its benefit was realised in our GER. Tamil Nadu’s GER index is on par with the Scandinavian GER Index. When we look for stats for every affirmative action, we will find it. The State procures from farmers and distributes because of the vast PDS network. Hence, since 1967, when we see it as an investment.”
Panneerselvam also pointed out the differences in the growth and development indicators of states in north India, including Gujarat, and TN, where the rural and urban divide is comparatively low here.
“That’s because of the continuous social investment we made. When the country was liberalised, we wanted people to build a ‘knowledge society’. Where did they come from? Where did they get the education from? So, we must see it as a social investment. Both DMK and AIADMK competed with each other, which helped the State invariably in many ways,” he averred.
E Jeyaranjan, vice-chairman of the State Planning Commission, pointed out that from a literacy rate of just 10%, Tamil Nadu has developed into the second largest economy in the country due to several welfare schemes. “So, we need more such schemes to suit the current situation. It’s similar to reservation,” he elaborated.
When OBC reservation was first introduced, it lifted many people out of socio-educational backwardness. But, over the years, some communities were enjoying the benefits repeatedly whereas others were lagging behind. “That’s when we broke up OBC into MBC and offered them exclusive reservation. The same yardstick applies to scheduled castes as well. Though the SCs were benefiting from reservation, Arundathiyars within the bracket were lagging behind. We compartmentalised them and provided 3% reservation. Now, they are benefitting exclusively,” stated Jeyaranjan. “Likewise, when a scheme or policy requires targeted intervention, we’ll revise it accordingly to suit the social conditions of the State.”
He referred to the Urimai Thogai scheme as a support system for those who were struggling economically. “We have only fixed economic criteria now. Say for instance, if a domestic maid works in ‘x’ number of houses, and one day, a family migrates. That’s a loss of income for the maid. Under such a circumstance, the monthly honorarium would come as a fall-back option,” averred Jeyaranjan. “Vidiyal Payanam too has enabled women to move out of their homes to earn more for their families. Likewise, the free breakfast scheme for government school kids has helped women to focus on their livelihood. They’re not burdened with making breakfast at the cost of earning a living.”