New Delhi: Empowerment and not entitlement has been the core philosophy underlying the initiatives launched by the National Democratic Alliance regime and probably one of its biggest differentiators from the previous governments.

In these two years that the NDA has been in power, this philosophy has found resonance in the numerous schemes and programmes that the government has introduced.

From the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme, which aims at encouraging the education of girl children by reversing India’s declining child sex ratio, to the Stand Up India programme for providing easy funding to Dalit and female entrepreneurs to its programmes aimed at providing a social security net for all Indians, the government’s focus has been on empowering the socially and economically disenfranchised sections of the society, including Dalits, tribals and women.

To be sure, it is still work in progress as many of the schemes have been recently launched and are yet to yield results. They include Nai Manzil, a skill development scheme for girls belonging to minority communities; Mahila-e-Haat, launched to promote female entrepreneurs; and the draft national policy for women, launched last week, which focuses on reproductive rights and recognizes the rights of single women.

Even while designing the social security schemes, the Modi government has stuck to the theme of empowerment over entitlement, ensuring that in all of its social security programmes, there are no free handouts. Instead, it requires the beneficiary to pay a small token amount to establish a sense of ownership and to prevent indifference.

Whether it is life insurance or accident insurance scheme or the ambitious pension scheme, all require the beneficiary to make a partial contribution to avail themselves of the scheme.

For instance, under the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, an accidental death and full disability cover of 2 lakh and a partial disability cover of 1 lakh is available to a policy holder, but they have to pay a subsidized annual premium of 12.

Similarly, in the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, people in the age group 18 to 50 years can get a life cover of 2 lakh for an annual premium payment of 330. Its flagship pension scheme—Atal Pension Yojana—also requires the beneficiary to contribute a fixed amount every year to build the pension corpus along with the incentive of a government contribution for the first few years.

Besides these, the government has also launched schemes to encourage entrepreneurs to start their own businesses as a way to empower them. The Mudra Yojana aims to ensure that small entrepreneurs get loans at low interest rates to set up their business and for daily working capital requirements.

In addition, the prime minister launched the Stand Up India scheme, aimed specifically at entrepreneurs belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as well as female entrepreneurs to help them take loans at low interest rates.

Analysts acknowledge the efforts of the government in empowering the have-nots, but feel that the lack of experience on the government’s part may be coming in the way of bringing about substantial change.

“The NDA government is well-intentioned when it comes to the welfare of Dalits, tribals and women and has helped these groups embark on a journey of empowerment by way of its schemes. However, just providing loans to set up businesses is not enough—these entrepreneurs also need to be provided with access to the market," said Chandra Bhan Prasad, a Dalit thinker and author.

“Until entrepreneurs get a market to cater to, which should ideally be provided by the government but is not happening due to the government’s inexperience, 95% of these businesses will fail," he added.

Proper implementation remains another area of concern.

“There are schemes and programmes launched but to translate all of them into action on the ground is the challenge," said Ranjana Kumari of the Centre for Social Research, an NGO that works for gender equality.

“From lack of co-ordination between different government bodies dedicated to the welfare of women to budget cuts, there are several things which have women rights activists agitated," she added.

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