NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday raised the target of beneficiaries under Ujjwala scheme to 8 crore, besides proposing lowering female employees' provident fund contribution to 8 per cent for the first three years.
"To incentivise employment of more women in the formal sector and to enable higher take-home wages, I propose to make amendments in the EPF and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 to reduce women employees' contribution to 8 per cent for first three years of their employment against existing rate of 12 per cent or 10 per cent with no change in employers' contribution," Jaitley said while presenting the Budget.
The percentage of working women has declined over time from 36 per cent being employed in 2005-06 to 24 per cent of women employed in 2015-16, the Economic Survey unveiled earlier this week had said.
About the Ujjwala scheme Jaitley said: "We launched the scheme to make poor women free from the smoke of wood. Initially our target was to provide free LPG connections to about 5 crore poor women.
"But in view of the pace of implementation of the scheme and its popularity among the women, we propose to increase the target of providing free connection to 8 crore poor women."
Observing that Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) will be encouraged to take up organic agriculture in clusters under National Rural Livelihood Programme, Jaitley exuded confidence that loans to women SHGs will augment to Rs 75,000 crore by March 2019.
He said loans to SHGs of women increased to about Rs 42,500 crore in 2016-17, growing 37 per cent over previous year.
Asserting that the government's commitment towards its flagship programme for the girl child 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' is unflinching, Jaitley said the 'Sukanya Samriddhi Account' scheme launched in January 2015 has been a great success.
"Until November, 2017 more than 1.26 crore accounts have been opened across the country in the name of girl child securing an amount of Rs 19,183 crore," said the finance minister.