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HomeNewsOpinionHow can India transform two crore women into 'Lakhpati Didi'

How can India transform two crore women into ‘Lakhpati Didi’

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Given the mandate to deliver within a defined timeframe, it is possible to create a self-sustaining pool of 20 million (two crore) women entrepreneurs 'Lakhpati Didi'. This will be a revolution and definitely improve India's ranking in women's employment and empowerment (gender equality) beside a societal transformation at the grassroots level.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his address to the nation on the 77th Independence Day from the Red Fort, announced that ‘It is my dream to make two crore “” in villages in India'. How does the Government enable the same to be achieved within a defined timeframe? Is this by enhancing the traditional skills of women or utilising the emerging opportunities, them and supporting them to set up self-sustaining businesses within the constraints of the village environment – low population, less purchasing power, cyclic economic activity and trends of capital being shifted from village to semi and urban areas (migration).

On the face of it, it looks to be very challenging but if implemented can truly be transformative especially for women's empowerment and social and economic inclusion. What are the options – an attempt has been made to identify the various emerging market opportunities for rural women. This will, however, be subject to the increase in the income and purchasing power of every household in the villages and the development of desired infrastructure such as power, connectivity, road etc. Every village population is taken as varying from 500 – 1000 households while the assumption made for one Didi for the trade/activity in every village. Smaller villages may have constraints but in some large villages the number of Didi can be more than one. In some cases, the villages in so-called semi-urban areas may also support and require the establishment of the proposed units.

As per the 2011 census, there are 6.4 lakh villages in India out of which 5.97 lakh villages are inhabited and about 64% of the Indian population live in villages. The proposed opportunities for promoting “Lakhpati Didi” in villages are:

BSNL Internet Didi:

The opportunity for providing the internet through Bharat Net in villages can generate sustainable business opportunities for at least three Didi in each village – one for the sale of the internet and the two for the operation of the last mile GPON and other equipment and maintenance of the optical fibre. This can result in the provision of about 1.8 million Didi (eighteen lakhs) engaged in gainful employment. In case about 500 people purchase a Rs 200 internet coupon and 10% is the income of the service provider (Didi), it will generate a monthly income of Rs 10,000 per month and more than Rs 1.2 lakh in a year. BSNL, which is implementing the Bharat Net project, needs to engage women in villages and support in the training and marketing of the sale of Broadband internet.

These may be called “BSNL Internet Didi”. Similarly, for the operation of the optical fibre – BSNL to engage a woman from each village – “BSNL GPON Didi”. She can also be paid 10% of the sale value of the internet coupon. Besides the above, there is a requirement of maintenance of the optical fibre “BSNL Optical Fibre Didi” – Rs 1000 per Km and with an average of about 5 km, she can earn about Rs 5000 per month. BSNL, however, needs to provide the equipment required for the maintenance and train these women for the identification of fault and repair of the same.

With the Government objective to provide optical fibre in each village and enable access to good quality broadband to every citizen, the requirement of village-level personnel for maintenance, upkeep and sale of the internet coupon is essential and therefore offers immense opportunity to support in enabling ‘Lakhpati Didi' in villages as envisaged by Government. Rather than selecting intermediary organisations as is the practice now, direct engagement of the village women would support in this initiative.

LIC Didi:

Insurance penetration in India is about 4% of the GDP as compared to the global average of 7%. In this, the life insurance penetration is 3.2% and non-life about 1%. One of the reasons for low penetration is a lack of awareness and reliable access point for availing the same. With the coverage of about 1000-1500 persons in each village and insurance company providing an incentive of Rs 100 per policy, the income from these can be Rs 100000 to 1.5 lakhs for the women agent. Though the income on renewal every subsequent year may be less but it does result in a sustainable business for the LIC Didi. LIC should appoint one insurance Didi in every village as “LIC Didi” which would result in about 6 lakh ‘Lakhpati Didi' in the country.

Non-Life Insurance Didi:

Non-life insurance penetration in India is also very poor. Despite the total number of vehicles being 326.3 million in India out of which about 21 crore were two-wheelers and about 7 crore four-wheelers. As per the existing law – Motor Vehicle Act, every vehicle needs to compulsorily have a third-party insurance policy. Though at the time of purchase of a new vehicle, the third-party insurance is taken however in many cases especially two-wheelers in Rural India, subsequent renewals are not done. It is estimated that about 16.54 crore vehicles in India are uninsured. Getting these vehicles covered under the third-party insurance will not only help in fulfilling the statutory obligation but generate business opportunities for service providers.

In every village if on average there are 100 vehicles and the incentive for vehicle insurance can be around Rs200 (including comprehensive insurance) then an agent can have an earning of Rs 20,000 in a Year. Besides there is scope for extending the Fasal Bima Yojna to farmers and other non-life products of insurance companies as health insurance etc. Sale of non-life insurance products shall be able to provide an income of more than Rs 6000 to every “Non-life insurance Didi” and Government shall be able to promote about 6 lakh such Didi in villages.

Banking Correspondent (BC) Didi:

In view of the emerging need for and Government initiative for Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), extending all the banking facilities to every citizen in the village can help in generating an income of Rs 5000 to Rs 7000 per month. Now with more than 50 crore person having Jan Dhan accounts – majority being in the Rural areas, the opportunities for local service providers to service and support these account holders are phenomenal.

Government focus to transfer funds/incentive to beneficiaries through DBT – more than 3 lakh crore being transferred every year has provided additional impetus for the same. Wherever the income of the BC Didi in villages is less than the stipulated minimum earning, banks can extend the incentive to compensate so as to help them become lakhpati BC Didi. This way we can strive for about 6 lakhs BC Didi.

Postal Didi:

Postal dept courier services will be required in every village for enabling delivery of products from the village to other consumers/users. Keeping in view the emphasis being given for skill upgradation of the traditional artisans through the new scheme launched recently, an efficient local courier service provider will be desirable in each village. Other Postal dept services can also be enabled to be accessed by the citizen through the postal Didi. This will result in about 6 lakh postal lakhpati Didi in the country.

Agri Input Didi:

With the advent of the use of technology in enabling an increase in farm productivity and doubling the farmers' income, it will be desirable to promote a framework to facilitate access to all these within the village through a local entrepreneur. A women entrepreneur can be given the license to sell and store the fertiliser and other inputs. She can then provide the support to all farmers. Setting up a local seed nursery, linkage with the nearest Krishi Vikas Kendra (KVK) shall provide the Agri Didi – necessary tools to provide extension services to farmers.

Government programme and schemes related to farmers or farm sector can also be extended through her. The recent launch of “Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samradhi Kendra” will provide the impetus for women to be associated with this programme. In fact, this can at least provide employment to two women and thus lead to more than 1.2 million lakhpati Didi in the villages.

Agri Allied Didi:

Encouraging women to undertake the agri-allied activities will not only promote the self-sustainable economic status of the villages but result in promoting women entrepreneurs in traditional skilled activities as milk production (cow rearing), goat rearing, beekeeping, fodder manufacturing, fish cultivation, mushroom cultivation and setting up small scale units in processing of the local produce.

Such activities can result in about 8-10 women entrepreneur units who shall be able to generate an income of more than Rs one lakh in a year. This would require the involvement of KVIC, AMUL, Patanjali and other such organisations both in the government and the private sector to provide the marketing linkages. This can promote more than 5 million “Lakhpati Didi”.

LPG Didi:

With Government efforts to make available the LPG gas to every household, there will be a requirement for enabling refilling and other related services available to every household in each village. This can support around 6 lakhs LPG Didi – one in each village. The companies, however, need to ensure an incentive of about Rs 10 per refill to be provided to the identified women. In a village of 1000 households, an income of Rs 10,000 per month is possible for the LPG Didi. Wherever the population is less, other products of the oil companies as engine oil etc can also be sold through the LPG Didi.

Bill Collection Didi:

Electric companies can identify one woman in each village for taking readings and collecting the monthly bill payments for all the household and commercial establishments. The appropriate incentive of Rs 10 per bill collection can help earnings of about Rs one lakh for the women identified for this purpose in each village. This will support about 6 lakh “lakhpati Didi”.

Water Didi / Swachh Bharat Didi:

With the extension of piped water supply to every household, there will be a requirement of one woman in every village to maintain and support the agencies in the operation of the supply scheme. Any charge to be collected from the household for water supply – the responsibility can be given to one woman. With the collection of Rs 1 per day, in a village with 1000 households the monthly collection can be Rs 30,000 per month. Some of that can be used for operating expenses and the rest can support making 6 lakh “lakhpati Didi”. Similarly, one Swachh Bharat Didi in every village will result in a further 6 lakhs such Didi.

Panchayat Sahayak Didi:

With a large amount of financial support being extended to panchayats and further delegation of village development and other projects being assigned to them, two panchayat sahayak Didi can be engaged on an incentive basis in each village. They can supervise and monitor projects and mobilise the community for various government programmes. Each of them can be given about Rs 8000 incentive resulting in about 1.2 million lakhpati Didi.

Others:

Every village requires an assistant motor mechanic, a tailor, a beauty parlour, an electric repair mechanic, mobile repair and an e-commerce support partner (logistics included), a surveyor for data collection and electric charging station provider. All of these supported by the government through low-interest rate loan (recently announced scheme), establishing linkages with private companies and some handholding can result in Lakhpati Didi for each of these activities. This will provide in making 4.8 million lakhpati Didi in the country.

ASHA and Anganwadi:

With the emerging need for healthcare and preschool/daycare facilities for children, an additional ASHA and anganwadi worker can be provided in each village. This will help in 1.2 million “lakhpati Didi” in the country.

With all the possible ventures mentioned above the total number of possible Lakhpati Didi can be 20 million (two crore). This, of course, will require a unique organisational structure – coordinating with all the concerned Ministry/organisation, building a platform for skilling, handholding and support beside exciting the private companies to get associated in providing the desired market linkages and incentivising these women for selling and marketing their produce.

The organisation can be under the government but managed and operated by the private companies in order to provide the desired flexibility, deploying the young and talented person as per market conditions. Given the mandate to deliver within a defined timeframe, it is possible to create a self-sustaining pool of 20 million (two crore) women entrepreneurs “Lakhpati Didi”. This will be a revolution and definitely improve India's ranking in women's employment and empowerment (gender equality) beside a societal transformation at the grassroots level.

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Dinesh Tyagi
Dinesh Tyagi
Dr. Dinesh Kumar Tyagi is a retired IAS officer from the 1981 batch with a broad experience across various government sectors. He has held significant positions including Director in the Banking Division of India's Finance Ministry during the Harshad Mehta scam in 1992, and Secretary of Education and Finance at the state level. His contributions extended to the banking sector, where he served on the boards of Syndicate Bank, UCO Bank, and Indian Bank, as well as the financial institution SIDBI. As the former Managing Director of CSC e-Governance Services India Ltd., under the Ministry of Electronics and IT, he played a key role in promoting e-governance.
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