Jaipur: National Rural Livelihood Mission would connect at least one woman from every poor household across the country with self-help groups in five years, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Friday.
"The objective of the programme is to ensure that in a five-year period, one woman from every poor household becomes a member of self-help group (SHG). Today, we have 3 crore women who are members of SHGs and we have to raise it to 7 crore in five years," Ramesh said.
"By the end of five years, one woman from every poor household will be SHG member. The programme is for rural BPL households, but I am in the process to remove this restriction between BPL and poor," the Rural Development minister said while delivering valedictory address on `Micro-Finance and Livelihoods` here.
Emphasising upon a flexible structure of guidelines in government programmes, Ramesh said that operation guidelines for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme are being revised.
"Flexibility is required to take into account the special requirements of the states. Very soon, we will be revising the operational guidelines for MGNREGA," he said.
The minister also underlined the need to create a regulatory space for micro-finance institutions (MFIs) so that they can function efficiently without adversely impacting the functions of SHGs.
Calling for leveraging the advantages of both MFIs and SHGs, he said they should be encouraged to produce social capital goods.
"Micro-finance cannot provide a definite answer to the challenges of poverty alleviation, but it can lead to financial inclusion by providing credit to the customer as per his own needs," he said.
Referring to the self-help group scenario in Rajasthan, he said there is still an enormous scope for growth in this sector as the major share of bank credits for SHGs is claimed by southern states.
"Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala account for 75 to 80 percent of the money provided by banks for supporting SHGs. Strong SHG network is a phenomena seen in south India and it is a challenge for us to make it pan-India feature," he said.
The valedictory session of the two-day colloquium was also addressed by NABARD chairman Prakash Bakshi who called for a change in the role of SHGs with the changing external environment.
Later in the day, Ramesh held a meeting with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot here.
He told Gehlot that Rs 8,000 will now be given instead of Rs 3,200 to poor families in Rajasthan for constructing toilets under a sanitation programme.
Both the leaders also discussed issues related with rural development and panchayati raj at the meeting in which senior state officials were also present.