'Employment generation is my priority'

Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister for Women and Child Development

Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister for Women and Child Development, at Samavesh Utsav in Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh.

Ensuring jobs for poor, especially women, is my top priority for Pilibhit as a Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha from this constituency. Financial inclusion initiative under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana will prove to be very useful. But this is only one step. Jan Dhan account in itself won’t solve all the problems. What is required is skills and employment.

I have taken a number of steps in the past six months to ensure gainful employment in the region. The initiatives include setting up facilities for papad making to mehndi plantation and training for running beauty parlours.

After months of negotiations, Shri Mahila Griha Udyog, the makers of famous Lijjat Papad, has agreed to set up an unit and start operation from Pilibhit. They have bought land at Gohania Chowraha in Pilibhit town and they will soon start papad production. They will train at least 1,000 women in Pilibhit to make papad. Lijjat Papad is the creation of a group of uneducated women. It symbolises women entrepreneurship. By getting associated with Lijjat Papad, even an uneducated woman can earn Rs.4,000-5,000 per month. Women will be given kneaded flour to make papad. The finished product will be bought back and sold in the market. So, the women need not worry about any investments required to start the business. At the same time, all their products will be bought by Shri Mahila Griha Udyog, which is a co-operative. It is an organisation of the women, by the women and for the women.

The second initiative is related to making of various products out of dung. I have a goshala (cow shelter) in Delhi. There used to be heaps of dung which was mostly wasted. Now with the help of a simple machine, a lot of products are made out of the dung including bricks and sapling pots. The machine costs Rs.45,000. You just need to put dung and husk. Bricks are used at crematorium in place of wood. Sapling pots replace polyethylene. Both these products are environment friendly. Sapling pots, on the one hand discourage the use of polyethylene and on the other hand work as a manure that helps in a healthy growth of the sapling.

I requested the maker of the machine to supply it in Pilibhit. I am also working with a local NGO to popularise its use. I have requested the banks to provide loans for the machine. Bank of Baroda is the lead bank in Pilibhit. My request to them is to liberally extend credit for these machines. We have a plenty of dung and husk in Pilibhit and this endeavour, for sure, will prove very successful.

The third area of my focus is mehndi cultivation. It can prove to be a game changer. Here I am taking an inspiration from Sadri in Rajasthan. Mehndi cultivation has brought a huge transformation in socio-economic condition of Sadri, which used to be among the most backward places in India. Today, the economics of Sadri revolves around mehndi cultivation and processing.

Mehndi can be grown in any parts of the country. It requires very little water. I want to make Pilibhit the Mehndi Capital of India. I have bought seeds from Sadri and given to a farmer in Pilibhit. I have directed that farmer to distribute the saplings for free to whoever wants in Pilibhit. I want to see it growing all across the district. Even a small landowner can make substantial money out of mehndi cultivation. Mehndi processing will also generate employment. There is a huge and growing demand for mehndi in India, especially in marriages be it among Hindus or Muslims. A lot of mehndi is imported from Pakistan to meet the local demands. Why can’t we grow it in India? I want Pilibhit to lead.

The fourth initiative I find worth mentioning here is trainings for running beauty and health centres. VLCC has agreed to set up a centre in Pilibhit. They have agreed to provide training to over 500 women and also provide jobs, either in Pilibhit or outside. This training will be very useful for young educated girls. After the training they can either start beauty parlours or work with other centres.

I have also set up a computer training centre here. No money is charged for the training. I will request especially the youth to learn computers. Whenever I meet any youth, I ask them to take at least the basic computer training. It is very useful in whatever career they choose.

Bank of Baroda has run several training programmes. They have trained 1,500-odd people in Pilibhit. I have requested the bank to provide training, covering those areas which are locally relevant. Banks have also been directed to provide credit liberally for starting small ventures. l

Edited excerpts from her speech during Samavesh Utsav at Pilibhit.

(The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of INCLUSION. Comments are welcome at info@skoch.in)

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