Geetanjali Minhas | April 16, 2012
The government has sought monetary support from the corporate sector for its ‘Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation’ (BRLF) project under the rural development ministry. The foundation will work in the areas of watershed management, dairy, fisheries, agriculture, forestry, skill-development etc and will be set up with a corpus of Rs 1,000 crore. The government will contribute Rs 500 crore while the rest will come from partners as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR). The amount of corpus invested will decide the number of representations each company can have on the foundation’s board
Announcing this, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said he had written letters to companies and business groups like the Tatas, Reliance, Wipro and Infosys to join the foundation as contributing partners and help improve the livelihood of tribals mostly living in central and eastern India. NABARD and the National Dairy Development Board have also been roped in.
“We have called a meeting on April 27 in New Delhi of all the stakeholders including corporates, civil society organizations and grassroots level activists to discuss various aspects of the Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation,” Ramesh said in Mumbai on Saturday.
Clarifying that BRLF will not be a government body but run on professional lines with a chairman and a fulltime CEO, the minister said, “In its structure and composition, it will be similar to the Public Health Foundation of India chaired by NR Narayan Murthy.” He said it was a joint proposal of his ministry and the planning commission and it would provide a platform to the centre, concerned state governments and civil society to work together to transform lives of the tribals in 170 districts including nearly 78 that have been affected by Maoist violence and have not seen any development.
Emphasizing on women’s self-help group movement as a tool of empowerment and promoting economic well-being, Ramesh said, “In five years National Rural Livelihood Mission would connect at least one woman from every poor household across the country with self-help groups. Currently 3 crore women are members of SHGs and the number has to go up to 7 crore in five years.
“While at present the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka account of 70% of women self-help groups and 80% of credit flow, the focus now will be to spread it across the country in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.”
He said that NABARD was creating a Rs 1,500 crore fund to cater to the self-help groups in weaker districts. “The SHGs require a variety of loans which public sector banks are not being able to provide. As a result the poor are driven to micro-finance institutions that offer credit on flexible terms but charge an exorbitant rate of interest.”
Stressing on the need to develop an organised and well-regulated micro-finance institutions network, Ramesh said the microfinance bill in its present form had too many loopholes. “In its bid to protect the micro-finance institutions it will kill the SHG movement,” he pointed.
"Micro-finance cannot provide a definite answer to the challenges of poverty alleviation but can lead to financial inclusion by providing credit to the customer as per his/ her own needs," he said.
At NABARD, Ramesh launched the 'Ajeevika' cell, which will work in close coordination with his ministry to further the goals of National Rural Livelihood Mission.
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