Organise and be powerful economic entities: Mihir Shah

Women’s self-help groups (SHGs) such as Kudumbasree can emerge as powerful economic entities capable of resisting the market forces unleashed by foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector, Mihir Shah, member, Planning Commission, has said.

Delivering the inaugural address at the opening session of the ‘International Conference on Deepening Democracy’ here on Sunday, he said the process of groups of women coming together as powerful economic entities could strengthen the position of the poor primary producers of the country vis-a-vis the marketplace.

Inclusive growth

He said the political foundation provided by the Panchayati Raj system and the economic foundation provided by the self-help group movement could come together to strengthen democracy and inclusive growth.

“Unless there are cooperative institutions of the poor, led by women, we will not be able to stand up to the kind of forces unleashed by FDI in the retail sector. On the other hand, if the women SHG movement in Kerala is replicated across the country, thousands of women enter the marketplace as powerful economic entities to resist exploitation by these forces,” he said.

Highlighting the growing gap between the huge outlay and the outcome of flagship programmes for social inclusion such as the Right to Education Act and the Food Security Act, he said, “The last 20 years has been described as the period of reform, but the interface between the bureaucracy and the most vulnerable people of this country still remains painful and unsatisfactory, for large sections. It is this unfinished task of reforming the public sector, including the implementing agencies of our flagship programmes, that Indian democracy must now undertake.” Asserting that there was a democratic upsurge in India, he, however, noted that there was also a sense of disaffection with what democracy had given to the most marginalised sections. Over the past 10 years, he said, the UPA government has tried to address this strong sense of alienation and exclusion from the democratic process.