In a progressive move towards gender equity and economic empowerment, the state government launched the ‘Sashakt Mahila Rin (Loan) Yojna’, an initiative aimed at providing women with the means to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, engage in livelihood activities, and uplift their families. The scheme, unveiled by Chief Minister Thakur Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu on 20th July, is part of a broader effort by the government to address gender-sensitive vulnerabilities and allocate significant resources to women-oriented schemes.
The central focus of the ‘Sashakt Mahila Rin Yojna’ is to provide collateral-free credit facilities to eligible women, enabling them to undertake various livelihood activities, micro-enterprises for self-employment, agricultural pursuits, and acquire machinery or equipment for business ventures. This crucial feature eliminates a significant barrier for women, particularly those who might not possess valuable assets to offer as loan security. By waiving the need for collateral, the scheme opens doors for women, empowering them to access much-needed funds without fear of financial insecurity.
Under this scheme, beneficiaries could avail of credit facilities of Rs. 21,000, Rs. 51,000 and Rs. 1,01,000. The first loan, amounting to Rs. 21,000, is extended to women aged 18 to 55 years with two savings accounts in the family with the Himachal Pradesh State Cooperative Bank. The repayment period for this loan is set at 5 years, with an EMI as low as Rs. 431. Upon successfully repaying the first loan without any default and within the specified timeframe of 12 to 15 months, the beneficiary becomes eligible for the second loan of Rs. 51,000, provided on the same favourable terms and conditions as the initial loan with an EMI of Rs. 1047. Similarly, successful repayment of the second loan within the designated 12 to 15 months period makes the borrower eligible for a third loan amounting to Rs. 1,01,000, continuing the trend of encouraging disciplined repayment behaviour, all at an affordable interest rate of 8.51%. The EMI for it is Rs. 2073 only. Such low-interest rates ensure that the burden of repayment is minimized, enabling women to manage their finances efficiently and grow independent enterprises, steadily.
Moreover, if all family members open savings bank accounts with a minimum balance, they become eligible for a 100 per cent waiver of ATM charges. This measure aims to promote financial awareness and inclusion within families, reducing transaction costs and facilitating a more connected and financially literate society.
The scheme stands as a powerful testament to the government’s commitment to women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in Himachal Pradesh. The scheme’s multi-stage credit disbursement, attractive interest rates, and incentives for financial inclusion demonstrate the thoughtful and comprehensive approach taken by the government to uplift the lives of women in the state.
The state government has consistently advocated for Gender-based Initiatives and stood steadfast to its word by announcing an allocation of Rs. 4,302.45 crores for women-oriented programs, which amounts to 45.17 per cent of the total development budget for the financial year 2023-24. Out of the total outlays for implementing women-oriented schemes, a provision of Rs. 415 crore for cent per cent women-oriented schemes and Rs. 3882.40 crore for below than hundred per cent women-oriented schemes.
In the pursuit of making every woman well-educated, skilled, and self-reliant, Himachal Pradesh has recognized the invaluable role of women in its economic system and aims to bridge the gaps in opportunities and recognition that they have faced historically. The initiative represents a transformative step towards realizing the true potential of rural women and creating a more equitable and prosperous society for all. Through this visionary initiative, the government of Himachal Pradesh has sent a resounding message of support and encouragement to its women, inspiring them to achieve their dreams and contribute even more significantly to the socio-economic fabric of the state.