The United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Thursday launched an interesting scheme of the Andhra Pradesh government to make 1 crore (10 million) women in the state a millionaire in next five years.
Under this Indira Kranthi Pratham Scheme the women's self-help groups will be provided loans of Rs 1 lakh crore (Rs 1 trillion) at the interest rate of 3 per cent per annum through linkages with various banks. The state government has set the target of 2013-14 to achieve the goal.
Addressing a mammoth gathering of more than 200,000 women members of SHGs at Renigunta near Tirupati on Thursday, Sonia Gandhi hailed the movement of women empowerment in Andhra Pradesh as a model not only for India, but also for the world.
Sonia Gandhi, who was impressed by the success stories generated by the Pavala Vaddi (3 per cent per annum interest) scheme for the SHGs, said: "You are an example of effectiveness of the groups in Andhra Pradesh. You have evinced a great deal of interest not only in our country, but also abroad. Whenever visitors from abroad come or when I go aboard and meet with leaders, they invariably ask me how they can duplicate the programs of self-help groups in Andhra Pradesh," she said.
On the occasion Sonia Gandhi presented a cheque of Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million) to the Life Insurance Corporation and United India Insurance to bring 4.2 million women members of SHGs under the credit insurance scheme.
The UPA chairperson also handed over cheques of Rs 128 crore (Rs 1.28 billion) from different banks, including Sapthgiri Grameena Bank, State Bank of India, Indian Bank and Andhra Bank, as loan linkage to the SHGs of Chittoor district.
She expressed happiness that in drought-prone district like Chittoor, women had taken to cooperative milk production in a big way and running several bulk milk cooling centers.
Lauding the initiative of low interest rate loans for women by the YS Rajasekhara Reddy government in the state, she said, "Apart from causing business activities, it has generated employment for more than 100,000 unemployed young men and women. It has create a very positive environment."
Speaking on the occasion, Andhra Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy said that banks were now vying with each other to extend loans to the women's groups in the state because of the incredible recovery rate of 99 per cent.
"Almost 90 lakh (9 million) members of 730,000 groups all over the state are utilizing the loans for various mercantile activities and small business like dairy farming, running bulk milk cooling centers," he said.
Criticizing the previous Telugu Desam Party government in the state for providing only Rs 700 crore (Rs 7 billion) to the SHGs at the high rate of 12 per cent per annum, Reddy said that his government was providing Rs 11,000 crore (Rs 110 billion) finance this year alone. "During last four years we have already provided a finance of Rs 13,200 crore (Rs 132 billion)," he said.
Earlier Sonia Gandhi participated in an interaction with select mandal-level leaders of SHGs where women narrated their success stories under various schemes including the national rural employment guarantee scheme.
One of them, Sridevi, said that low interest scheme had changed her life as her group had got a loan of Rs 4.5 lakh (Rs 450,000) and she was in to milk production earning Rs 3,000 per month.
Officials said that the dairies run by SHGs were producing 210,000 litres of milk per day in the district and the price at which the groups were selling milk had also gone up from Rs 6 to Rs 12 per litre.
Amravati, another lady said she had earned Rs 12,000 by working under the NREGP and has now purchased a bullock cart for business.
Sonia Gandhi is on a day-long visit of three districts of Chittoor, Kadapa and Anantapur in Rayala Seema region. The visit is being seen as a move to gear up the ruling Congress party for the coming elections and to prepare it to face the two-pronged challenge from the Telugu Desam and Praja Rajyam party of film star Chiranjeevi.