New Delhi: In a bid to ensure growth in rural incomes from allied agricultural activities, the ministry of rural development plans to provide loans worth 90,000 crore in the next couple of years to women’s self-help groups (SHGs), a senior ministry official said on Monday.

With 30 million women linked to SHGs, they had availed of 30,000 crore in bank loans for economic activities under the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), Amarjeet Sinha, secretary in the rural development ministry, said.

In other words, each of the 30 million women had an eligibility to borrow 10,000 which the government is now planning to triple to 30,000 to invest in allied agricultural activities include fisheries, bee keeping, poultry, livestock rearing and minor food processing activities.

This move is being seen as part of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s plans to double incomes of farm households by 2022.

NRLM was launched by the rural development ministry in June 2011 under the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

It is one of the flagship programmes of the rural development ministry, designed to alleviate rural poverty in a time-bound manner by mobilizing rural poor households into self-managed self-help groups and federations which, in turn, promote the livelihoods of the poor.

The centrally sponsored programme is currently being implemented in parts of 462 districts of the country in a phased but intensive manner, a statement from the ministry said.

“A key element of this programme is that rural women especially from the southern states are availing of loans and using this to engage in gainful employment. We are hoping to streamline financial flows in terms of bank credit to such women so that many more can be lifted from poverty," said a rural development ministry official, who did not wish to be named.

“There are some three crore such women who have organised themselves into SHGs and if each is allowed 30,000 as a loan in the next two years or so, it will amount to some 90,000 crore," the official explained.

Sinha highlighted four goals for NRLM in the coming years that included “augmenting and sustaining SHG-credit linkage in north and north-eastern states, ensuring each rural household gets a choice of 2-3 sustainable livelihoods including skill-based employment and or self-employment and promotion of poverty-free gram panchayats" or village councils.

“With 47% of the population engaged in farming, this sector has become saturated in terms of creating new employment or increasing rural incomes," said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“So allied activities are the next option if we are looking at increasing rural incomes," the official explained.

NRLM has provided a capital grant of about 3,170 crore to SHGs in the form of a revolving fund, community investment fund and interest subsidy to support the livelihoods of the poor, the rural development ministry statement said.

“More significantly, the SHGs have leveraged 83,153 crore of bank credit since 2013-14," the statement said.

About 1.97 million rural youth have also been trained in self-employment skills through a network of 583 Rural Self Employment Training Institutes, of which 1.21 million have been able to find self-employment.

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