Not to be lost in the melee of income tax benefits for the salaried class, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that one of the top four focussed areas of the Budget is women’s empowerment. In her Budget speech, citing the instance of ‘start-ups’ growing into ‘Unicorns’, she announced that 81 lakh Self Help Groups (SHGs) would be supported by the government to become large producer enterprises.

Another major announcement for women is a fixed interest rate of 7.5 per cent on deposit up to ₹2 lakh per person for two years under the Mahila Samman Savings Certificate scheme. The deposit under this scheme can be made in the name of a woman or a girl child and it will have a partial withdrawal facility as well.

These, along with her assertion that women would benefit from an assistance package for artisans, conceptualised under PM-Vishwakarma Kaushal Samman (PM-VIKAS) scheme, may help the government to retain their support.

“We will enable these groups (SHGs) to reach the next stage of economic empowerment through the formation of large producer enterprises or collectives with each having several thousand members,” she said.

While mentioning that the government had transferred over ₹2.25 lakh crore to over 11 crore under PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi since its launch, about three crore women farmers have been provided ₹54,000 crore under the scheme, the finance minister said.

The government has stayed away from any direct cash transfer scheme for women and has gone for increasing their share in existing system by expanding the opportunities. “Channelising women’s economic potential through ecosystem services such as affordable market alternatives for care work, safe transportation and lodging, and long-term counselling support, can help capitalise the gender dividend for the country’s future economic and social development,” the Economic Survey said January 31.

The Congress has announced ‘Gruha Lakshmi Scheme’ for Karnataka promising ₹2,000 per month to each woman head of a family and Trinamool Congress has promised financial assistance of ₹1,000 to women in Meghalaya, ahead of coming assembly polls. The Congress had announced ₹1,500 monthly allowance to women in Himachal Pradesh while Aam Admi Party in Punjab had promised ₹1,000 to all women.

Meanwhile, the Budget allocation for the Women and Child Development Ministry, the nodal department of the government for the welfare of women and children, has been raised to ₹25,448.75 crore for 2023-24, up from ₹23,912.69 crore during 2022-23 (RE).