Chidambaram focuses on women, youth, poor in budget

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 28, 2013 14:54 hrs

New Delhi: To woo "ambitious" women, "impatient" youth and the poor, the Congress-led UPA government on Thursday promised them more schemes and programmes as they "represent the vast majority of the people of India".

"...before I close this part of my speech, I wish to draw a picture of three faces that represent the vast majority of the people of India," finance minister P Chidambaram said.

"The first if the face of the woman. She is the girl child, the young student, the sportswoman, the homemaker, the working women, and the mother. The second is the face of the youth. He is impatient, she is ambitious, and both represent the aspirations of a new generation. The third is the face of the poor who look to the government for a little help, a scholarship or an allowance or a subsidy or a pension.

He said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the chairperson of the UPA Sonia Gandhi has made these promises to these three groups in the budget.

Chidambaram then announced a special Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion/$181 million) corpus named Nirbhaya Fund for the safety of the women. The fund has been announced in memory of the young woman who passed away on Dec 29 last year, two weeks after she had been brutally gang-raped in a moving bus in the Indian capital.

"We have a collective responsibility to ensure the dignity and safety of women. Recent incidents have cast a long, dark shadow on our liberal and progressive credentials. As more women enter public spaces - for education or work or access to services or leisure - there are more reports of violence against them," Chidambaram said.

"We stand in solidarity with our girl children and women and we pledge to do everything possible to empower them and to keep them safe and secure. A number of initiatives are under way and many more will be taken by government as well as non-government organizations," he added.

"These deserve our support. As an earnest of our commitment to these objectives, I propose to set up a fund - let us call it the Nirbhaya Fund - and government will contribute Rs 1,000 crore," he said.

As the media is not allowed to name a rape victim, the young woman who fought those who assaulted her Dec 16 was referred to as "Nirbhaya" (fearless one) and "Damini" (lightning) by sections of the press.

The minister said the Women and Child Development along with other ministries will work out the details of the structure, scope and application of the fund.

He said they want to motivate the youth to voluntarily join skill development programmes.

The aim is also to reach out to the youth who were in the forefront of anti-rape agitation in the country after the gang-rape of the 23-year-old physiotherapist trainee. Also, 70 per cent of voters in the country are under 35 years.

"I propose to ask the National Skill Development Corporation to set the curriculum and standards for training in different skills, the candidate will be required to take a test conducted by authorized certification bodies," he said.

He said upon passing the test, the candidate will be given a certificate as well as a monetary reward of an average of Rs 10,000 per candidate.

"Skill-trained youth will give an enormous boost to employability and productivity. On the assumption that 10,00,000 youth can be motivated, I propose to set apart Rs. 1,000 crore for this ambitious scheme," Chidambaram added.

For the poor of the country, the finance ministry said Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme has captured the imagination of the people, especially the poor.

Described as a "game-changer" by the government, Chidambaram said the Congress-led government "is the government of the people."

"The money is the money belonging to the people. When we say 'Aapka paisa aapke haath", why should anyone oppose it? We have made a modest and cautious beginning on the 1st of January, 2013.

"Nearly 11 Lakh beneficiaries have received the benefit directly into their bank accounts," he added.

He said they "see the smiles on the faces of the dalit girls and the tribal boys who have received their scholarships."

"We see the happiness on the faces of the pregnant women who are assured that the government cares for the mother and the child before and after child birth," the finance minister said.

"We are redoubling our efforts to ensure that the digitized beneficiary lists are available; that a bank account is opened for each beneficiary; and that the bank account is seeded with Aadhar in due course," he further said.

He said the direct cash transfer will be rolled out throughout the country during their term.

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