Union Minister Jairam Ramesh criticises government for not making available at least community toilets

Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh took an indirect dig at the State Government for not making available individual sanitary latrines or, at least, community toilets in spite of its tall claims on women empowerment.

Mr. Jairam recalled his experience in Anantapur district recently where he accompanied Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to interact with self help groups.

Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy and Minister N. Raghuveera Reddy made several claims on women empowerment including provision of basic amenities to them.

“But when asked for their views, seven out of 10 women in the gathering said they had no toilets and so they defecate in the open. This is the state of affairs in spite of the fact that a majority of these women are enrolled in the self help groups for over five years,” he said.

Mr. Jairam Ramesh was addressing the participants at the valedictory of a national conference on community based approaches for inclusive growth here on Saturday.

The Minister announced the Centre’s decision to extend loans at seven per cent interest to SHGs from April 1 next year bringing them on a par with the farmers.

The interest rate would be further reduced to 4 per cent in 150 districts selected on the basis of parameters like Dalit and population of tribal people and incidence of naxalites.

In addition, the Centre’s decision to implement direct benefit transfer scheme would come in handy for the SHG women who could act as franchisees in reaching out the amounts to targeted beneficiaries.

“This is not a scheme where money is deposited in the accounts. It involves cash transfer and SHG women can utilise their network as banking correspondents for effective delivery of cash at the door steps, of course, charging some commission from the Government,” he said.

The State had registered 1,500 SHG women as franchisees to operate post office accounts and the model could be replicated in the banks too in the coming days.

The Minister explained that the salient feature of the national rural livelihood mission project was to reach out to the grass roots for which the elected local bodies and the SHG groups formed two main pillars.

The women, on their part, should make sure they did not confine themselves to financial issues and looked beyond to address social aspects like women trafficking, sanitation and manual scavenging still prevalent in some parts, he added.