Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, while presenting the General Budget in Parliament today, announced that the government is committed to the universalisation of the Integrated Child Development Services scheme in the country.
He said that, by March 2012, all services under ICDS would be extended with quality to every child under the age of six.
Expressing grave concern at the low level of female literacy in the country, Mukherjee said the aim of the National Mission for Female Literacy would be to reduce the current level of female illiteracy by half in three years. This mission will focus on minorities, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other marginalised groups.
He announced that in order to enable students from economically weaker sections to access higher education, it is proposed to provide them full interest subsidy during the period of moratorium.
"It will cover student loans from scheduled banks to pursue any of the approved courses of study in technical and professional streams from recognised institutions in India," he said.
"It is estimated that over 5 lakh (500,000) students would avail of this benefit," he added.
He also announced that the government proposed to enroll at least 50 per cent of all rural women as members of self help groups over the next five years and link these SHGs to banks.
He said that the women's SHG movement is bringing about a profound transformation in rural areas, and today over 22 lakh (2.2 million) such groups are linked with banks.
He stated that the corpus of the Rashtriya Mahila Kosh would be raised to Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 million) from the exiting Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 million), in recognition of its role as an instrument of socio-economic change and development.
"This Kosh has been working towards the facilitation of credit support or micro finance to poor women and has developed a number of innovative schemes for their benefit," he added.
Budget 2009: Complete coverage