There are quite a few state-sponsored schemes that have triggered sort of a change at ground zero. One of them is the National Rural Livelihood Mission, which has locally been named as Umeed (hope). This scheme was initiated during the Congress era in select blocks across the state and gradually – after the change of guard, extended to other areas. By now, it is operational in most of the state belts, especially the remote areas.
The scheme is copied from a successful model from Andhra Pradesh where women would pool their small savings and create a corps that they can deploy with the help of the banks. The scheme lays focus on the members of these groups actually investing in areas where they can earn. These could be handicrafts, sales or some other business activity which these members can undertake without disturbing their routines.
Last month when the governor’s administration launched the back to village programme, some of these groups were seen talking to the officials about the small/big problems they were facing. This was the key to understand how the Umeed has actually opened the new doors of hope.
Sonawari is one of the unfortunate belts of North Kashmir that lives on the banks of the river but has historically faced the devastation even during routine small floods. Though the government, during Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad era, invested hugely on embankments of the river, it still could not come out of the profile that the Jhelum had created for the belt.
This crisis has remained key to the region’s literacy and economic well being. That is where Umeed has started undoing the past.
There are hundreds of women who are affiliated with the central government scheme and have created wonders. These women have explained the details of the struggles they had to put at their own individual levels, against their own families to slightly alter the male-dominated social order. They have faced problems and perpetual tensions.
For fighting odds, they stand rewarded now. There are countless cases of successful small enterprises that have started altering the profile of the belt. There are cases in which these women, including school and college drop-outs, have picked up certain handicrafts and made it big. Some of them are now seeking paid assistants to help them take their success stories to the next level. This, they tell in detail, has improved the economic conditions of the families. Finally, the males have compromised and accepted that the females improved role as economic beings.
The success of the Umeed proves that if a scheme is properly crafted and better packaged, it can have enough takers even in areas in Kashmir. Exclusivity in schemes makes them less potent on the ground but if a scheme involves a lot of people, there is a possibility of making it big. What makes this scheme different is that it involves stake-holding of the people on the ground and it treats them equal.