Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA) introduced in 1982-83 in a sub-scheme of Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) at district level.
The primary objective of the scheme is to focus attention on the women members of rural families below the poverty line to provide them the opportunities of self-employment on a sustained basis. The programme was initially introduced in 50 selected districts. Later, it was extended to more districts in a phased manner all over the country.
The following are the objectives of the scheme at micro level-
- To improve the quality of life of women and children.
- To involve rural women and children to understand their wants like hygienic environment, clean drinking water, nutritious food, schooling facilities etc.
- To provide an opportunity for income generating activities for individual through a group of women by building the existing skills and occupations, utilization of locally available resources and providing suitable marketing facilities, and
- Self-subsistence even after help is withdrawn.
A distinguishing feature of DWCRA is that it is a group strategy as against family a a unit of assistance under IRDP. The women members of DWCRA from groups of 10-15 each for taking up economic activities suited to their skill, aptitude and local conditions. The group strategy is adopted to motivate the rural women to come together and break social bonds which have denied them income-generating and self-fulfilling opportunities. The group approach has been extended to all districts with an intention to have greater coverage of women. One women from amongst the members functions as a group organizer and helps in the choice of activity, procurement of raw materials, marketing of products etc.
The selection of activity is generally done by the group only to avoid the impression that the activity has been imposed on them by the authorities concerned against their wishes. However, selected activity should be one for which suitable skill and training is possessed by the members of the group and raw materials and marketing facilities are available locally. The activity selected should be such that in involves all the members and encourages group cohesiveness and sense of belonging. Some of these include: tailoring, weaving, fiber making, food processing, bakery, poultry, match box making, leather work etc.
In addiction to the benefits of loan subsidy of IRDP to individual member each group of women under DWCRA is given a lump sum grant of Rs. 15,000 as ‘revolving fund’ which is meant for following purposes- (i) Purchase of raw materials and marketing of final products; (ii0 Honorarium to group organizer Rs. 50 per month for a period of 1 year, (iii) Infrastructure support for income generating and other group activities; (iv) One time expenditure on child care activities; and (v) One time expenditure not exceeding Rs. 500 to meet travel allowance of group members for paying visits to banks. In addition the group organizer is entitle to Rs. 200 towards traveling allowance for a period of one year. This allowance amount is shared equally by the Government of India and the State Government.
A group which is recognized under the Societies Registration Act or State Co-operative Societies Act can approach any bank for getting a loan in the name of group for production purpose. As most of the groups assisted under DWCRA are unregistered, the Government came up with a pilot project in May, 1990 with a coverage of 16 selected districts to help such units in securing assistance. The salient feature of this scheme are-(i) The minimum number fo women members of the informal group for which the scheme is applicable is 5; (ii) Each group is entitle to a revolving fund amount on prorate basis at Rs. 1000 per member, subject to a maximum of Rs. 15,000 per group; and (iii) The group is also entitled to a subsidy of 50% under IRDP, subject to a monetary ceiling prescribed from time to time.
The Gram Sevika at the lowest rung of the organizational setup looks after the activities of the group at Block level, assisted by the regular Mukhya Sevika and two additional Gram Sevikas belonging to the community development block staff. At district level. there will be one post of Assistant Project Officer (Women’s Development) who should be a woman taking charge of the programme. She is required to monitor the progress of the programme and work under the supervision and guidance of the Project Director of District Rural Development Authority (DRDA). At state level one Deputy Secretary/Director would be in charge of DWCRA. She would periodically review the programmes in the state and would hold meetings in the project areas to oversee qualitative aspects.
The scheme of DWCRA is no doubt a promising programme aimed at providing economic liberty and bringing social awareness among the rural womenfolk and children. But the scheme suffers from certain lacunae which, if removed, would result in greater success of the scheme. They are (1)) the assistance provided is too meager to start any activity and the units either close down or become defunct in the early stages of formation; (2) no guarantees are extended on behalf of the groups to enable them to get additional resources from the banks; (3) there is no attempt to combat the middle man’s role in marketing the goods produced by the groups; (4) there is political madding in the selection of both members of a group and the activity to the undertaken by it; (5) the Gram Sevika meant for supervision is unable to attend to the needs of the group owing to heavy burden of work, (6) there is lack of commitment among the supervisory staff in making the scheme a success which is attributed to meager payments received by them for their services and (7) there is lack of publicity with regard to availability of the scheme and its benefits to the rural folk. If these problems are set right, the objectives of the scheme could definitely be achieved.
The scheme visualizes an ongoing participative evaluation of the programme to be conducted by the Gram Sevika, Mukhya Sevika and members of the group. Every six months, the group along with the Gram Sevika may meet to discuss about the achievements, benefits and the problems about the objectives.