Finance Minister P. Chidambaram tabled the Union Budget 2013-14 covering two major provisions for women on Thursday.
Among the slew of proposals for the women population in the country, Chidambaram announced the setting up of an all-women bank, a first of its kind in the country, and measures related to their safety and security.
"I...propose to set up India's first women bank as the public sector. I shall provide ₹1,000 crore as initial capital. I hope to obtain the necessary approval and banking licence by October, 2013," said Chidambaram in his Budget speech.
With the setting up of a women-centric bank, the government proposes to allocate ample opportunities to women, provide aid to women self-help groups and their livelihoods on the whole.
Chidambaram said that this initiative will help address gender-related issues and empower women socially and financially. The proposed bank will predominately have women employees.
The proposition of the women bank will enhance credit and channelise savings for women not only in the vicinity, but also in smaller towns and cities.
In the wake of the rising crime rate, the minister took a tough stand with the declaration of ₹1,000 crore for the Nirbhaya Fund. The fund is named in honour of the 23-year-old physiotherapy student, who fell victim to a heinous gang-rape and murder in December last year,
"Recent incidents have cast a long dark shadow on our credentials. As more women enter public spaces...there are more reports of violence against them. ...I will set up a fund of ₹1,000 crore to achieve this end. The Ministry of Women will come up with a plan on how to use these funds," said Chidambaram.
The fund will ensure the safety of women enabling them to work in jobs and locations requiring greater security, and subsequently boost their output with increased earnings.
Taking note of the vulnerable state of women, especially the single and widowed, in a male-centric society, Chidambaram stressed on their right to live with dignity and self esteem. He also said that young women should not be subjected to harassment and be free of gender discrimination at work.
"The Women and Child Development ministry has been allotted ₹200 crore and given with the responsibility to craft schemes to address these grave concerns," he said.
Announcing other plans for the coming year, Chidambaram informed the House that ₹97,134 crore has been allocated to the gender budget and ₹77,236 crore for child development.
With the government all geared up for the general elections, the finance minister aims to concentrate on crucial issues concerning women's development, health, scheduled caste welfare, farm credit, malnutrition, rural job scheme, water and urban development and other social and development concerns.
However, the FM's propositions were subjected to censure as it received flak from pro-women supporters.
The proposal of Nirbhaya Fund came under the scanner from intellectuals and common people who viewed it a major lapse in the government's part in assuring safety to women.
The decision of the all-women bank has also been condemned by many who describe it as a gimmick which would only aggravate corruption and bureaucracy among politicians.