SHIMLA :The fair sex in Himachal Pradesh is in for a fairer deal and fuller opportunities in its march to empowerment. One can feel and foresee unfolding of a new phase of women development in the State with the new Government expressing its special concern and commitment for the welfare of women straightaway. For women, the new Government struck a new happy note on the very first day, when the Chief Minister, Prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal announced
holidays on Raksha bandhan and Bhaiya dooj for women employees besides free traveling facilities in Himachal Pradesh Road Transport buses on these days and to provide 50% reservation to women in all Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies.
Women play a significant role in the developmental process. To provide more opportunities to women in national re-construction and planning at all levels, women have been provided 33 percent reservation in Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies. The State Government with a view to ensure their greater participation in decision making at grass root level has decided to enhance reservation to women by further 17 percent. Earlier, the women employees were getting holiday on Karwachauth. Now, the Government has extended this facility to them on Raksha Bandhan and Bhaiya Dooj also.
State Government is protecting the interests of poor, helpless, widows and old aged women and various schemes are being implemented for their welfare. In a major decision, the State Government has enhanced social security pension from Rs. 200 to Rs. 300 per month which would benefit 68455 widows. Rs .11001 is being provided to poor and helpless girls as marriage grant under Mukhya Mantri Kanyadaan Yojna. Rs. 25000 grant is being provided to young widows for their remarriage. A financial assistance of Rs. 1000 per year is being provided to widows, helpless and divorcee women to bear the expenses of 2 children besides social security pension under Mother Teresa Asahay Matri Sambal Yojna.
State government is spending about Rs. 30 crore every year on various programmes aimed at welfare and upliftment of women of the State. 18248 Anganwari centres are functioning under Integrated Child Development Scheme and about 90000 women, 4 lakh 27 thousand children up to 6 years of age and 88000 young girls are being provided nutritious diet everyday under the scheme. Rs.40 crore would be spent during coming financial year under the Nutritious Diet Programme. Pre- school education is also being provided to one lakh 64 thousand children between 3-6 years.
Women empowerment can be achieved in real sense only when women are economically strong and independent. Government has announced to generate employment and self employment avenues to unemployed girls and women in order to make them self dependent. Women self help groups have done commendable job in this direction. At present, more than 18500 Women Self Help Groups are functioning in the State which have more than 2 lakh 16 thousand members who are involved in various income generating activities and have an income of more than Rs.32 crore. About 35,000 women are working as Anganwari workers and helpers in the State and about 1300 more such posts would be filled up soon. Besides, 14 hostels have been constructed for providing residential facilities to working women in the State. Another hostel is proposed to be constructed at a cost of Rs. 6.37 crore at Baddi in district Solan.
State has achieved recognition at national level for its high literacy rate especially, female literacy. Government’s efforts in this direction are laudable as the successful implementation of schemes has resulted into this achievement. Government is promoting girl education on priority and various schemes are under implementation for the purpose. Free education facilities are being provided upto 12th standard to inmates of 20 Bal Balika Ashrams under Mukhya Mantri Bal Uddhaar Yojna besides providing assistance to them to avail higher and vocational education. 16 student hostels have been constructed while 20 such hostels are under construction in the State to facilitate girl students of SC/ST/OBC categories pursue their education.
In order to protect the rights of working women and to check exploitation at workplaces, Female Grievances Redressal Committees have been constituted in all Government, Non-Government, Board and Corporation offices. A Gender Budgeting Cell would be set up in every Department soon.
Decreasing female sex ratio in the State is an area of concern and State government has reiterated its commitment to tackle the problem by issuing strict directions to concerned authorities to implement the laws pertaining to female foeticide more stringently. Regular surprise checks on clinics conducting sex determination tests are being conducted by health department besides generating awareness on the issue through awareness campaigns etc at State, District and Village levels. State government is providing various benefits to girls to change the psyche of people who consider girl child as a burden. Balika Samridhi Yojna for girls born in BPL families will be implemented more effectively to achieve the objective.
Women empowerment is on the priority agenda of the present government .The women are assured of equal participation in the progress of the State on the path of prosperity, self-employment and self-reliance.