Buoyed by the response to UPA's rural livelihood scheme, Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Monday sought quick implementation of Aajivika mission across the nation especially its central and eastern parts.
Gandhi's thrust on the scheme comes at a time when Congress is bracing for Lok Sabha elections due next year and assembly elections in five states including BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh this year.
Giving a thrust to poverty alleviation in her address at the second anniversary of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) here, Gandhi said that the empowerment of weaker sections and women has been the main pillar of our UPA government.
The Congress President also chose the occasion to announce that a special package is being prepared for North Eastern states and hilly states like Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh to give a fillip to such measures.
She said that in the next ten years, 7 crore BPL families have to be freed from poverty, which is not an easy job.
"But by adopting the Aajivika Mission, many states have proved that through women SHGs, economical and social changes can be brought in the rural areas.
"Seeing this success, it seems that now the Aajivika Mission will have to be implemented fast across the country especially in central and eastern India," Gandhi said.
Aajeevika was launched by Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) in June 2011. It aims at creating efficient and effective institutional platforms of the rural poor enabling them to increase household income through sustainable livelihood enhancements and improved access to financial services.
NRLM has set out with an agenda to cover 7 Crore BPL households, across 600 districts, 6000 blocks, 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats and 6 lakh villages through self-managed Self Help Groups (SHGs) and support them for livelihood collectives in a period of 8-10 years.
Hailing the NRLM as an important programme of the UPA, Gandhi claimed that in no other country of the world, such an ambitious and huge scheme for the empowerment of women exists.
"Today everybody has proved that this programme can free women from the curse of poverty. Such an an emancipation is based on stable and self-made employment and not on the mercy and kindness of anybody.
"Our purpose is clear. We have to strengthen the women SHGs and their instruments financially," she said.
Maintaining that the empowerment of weaker sections and women has been the main focus of the UPA government, she said that the capacity to bring a change in society lies in the women most as they are the ones in the families and societies on whose shoulders lie responsibility of nurturing coming generations.
"Women are the worst victims of poverty and social exploitation especially those belonging to the minorities, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
"....For the financial empowerment of women, we have still to do much more, have to increase their skills by getting more loans so that they can get new opportunities of livelihood...The social revolution that we want to bring about is possible only through the women," Gandhi said addressing the gathering.
The Congress President also noted that the UPA government has initiated measures for the social and financial empowerment of women in Jammu and Kashmir through the instrument of women SHGs.
"In the next five years, we hope to reach this programme to two thirds of the families in the state. I have been told that its result is very positive and we will see its many successes soon. Similarly, a special package is being prepared for North Eastern states and hilly states like Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh," Gandhi said.
Gandhi also referred to a woman SHG member from Jammu and Kashmir, who spoke from the dais on how the scheme Himayat empowered her financially.