Legal Assistance to Assure Justice to Women:
The government established a special ‘Cell’ [attached to labour department] in 1976 with a view to provide due assistance to women in distress. The responsibility of this cell is entrusted to the ‘Commissioner of Police’. The central government has also established a separate ministry with a cabinet rank to deal with the issues and problems concerned with women.
To assist judiciary in its task of ensuring judicial protection to women “social vigilance groups” are established. Family Courts established according to “the Family Court Act, 1984 “, are giving legal protection to women. The Social Welfare Department has established “Women’s Bureau” in order to look into the problems of women and to find solutions for the same.
Establishment of National Commission for Women:
The Central Government established “the National Commission For Women” [NCW] in 1992 in order to check incidents of violence against women and to promote social, legal and economic equality of women. The Commission has a Chairman, 5 members, and a Member Secretary, all nominated by the Central Government.
The Commission continues to pursue its mandatory activities, namely, review of legislations, interventions in specific individual complaints of atrocities and remedial action to safeguard the interests of women. The Commission has accorded highest priority to securing speedy justice to women. In addition to the NCW, several states of India established “State Women’s Commissions” [SWC]. By 2001, there were SWCs in as many as 17 states
The main function of these Commissions is to inquire into the “unfair practice” meted out to women which includes “mental and physical torture”. Its other functions include studying inadequacies in laws, monitoring enforcement of laws, inspecting prisons, police stations, lock-ups, refuges for women victims of violence, etc. It makes recommendations for prosecution in individual cases. Smt. Girija Vyas is its present  national level President.
Relief and Rehabilitation:
compensation is to be paid to members of those communities who have suffered abuses. This compensation includes Rs. 50,000, to a woman who has had her modesty “outraged” or been sexually exploited, and Rs. 2 lakh to a woman who has been raped. But it has been observed that proper economic and social rehabilitative facilities are not provided to the victims though such legal provisions are there.
Government’s Concern for Women through the Observance :
The Government’s concern for women has been expressed by means of its observance of “Women’s Day Programmes”. For Example: –
(i) The year 1975 was observed as “International Year of Women” as per the call of the UNO. From 1975 onwards, the 8th Day of March is being observed as “International Women’s Day”.
(ii) The year 1990 was observed as “SA ARC year of the Girl Child”.
(iii) The Decade between 1991-2000 AD was observed as “The SAARC Decade of the Girl Child”.
(iv) The year 2001 was observed as the “Year of Women’s Empowerment”.
In order to protect the social and economic interests of women, the Government has undertaken a variety of programmes among which the following may be mentioned.
a) Educational Development Plan for Women – through women study Centres, Human Resources Department, the UNICEF, NCERT, Ford Foundations, and so on.
b) Programmes for Improving Women’s Health – through Indian Council of Medical Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Central Govt. Health Services Scheme, and so on.
c) Economic Development Programmes for Women – Through various schemes such as – Institute for providing vocational training for women, Women’s National Training Institute, Working Women’s Hostels, the National Committee for Women Welfare, Social Assistance Schemes. The Scheme of Training, – Employment Cum Production Centres, Rastriya Mahil Kosh (1992); Mahila Samriddhi Yojana, Indira Mahila Yojana (1995), Women’s Development Corporation
[WDC – 1986-87], Welfare and Support Services, and so on.
Educational Development Plan for Women:
The University Grants Commission had stressed as early as in 1948 the essential need for the education of women. The Central Education Department, the [NCERT] National Council of Educational Research and Training, the [NAEP] National Adult Education Programme and other institutions have evinced greater interest in providing educational facilities for women.
i. Women Study Centres have been established with the assistance of [UGC] University Grants Commission to study the status of women and problems and issues concerned with women.
ii. Other Institutions: Institutions such as – (i) UNICEF: United Nations’ International Children’s Educational Fund; (ii) ICSSR: Indian Council of Social Science Research; (iii) UNESCO: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation; (iv) CSIR: Council of Scientific and Industrial Research; (v) Ford Foundation, etc. have shown a special interest in studying women’s problems.
Programmes for Improving Women’s Health:
Various organisations, independent surveys and studies conducted by prominent individuals and private institutions brought to the notice of the Central Government at different times between 1975-85 the urgent need for improving women’s health. Various governmental agencies such as “Indian Council of Medical Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Central Government Health Services Scheme [CGHSJ etc. have been paying much attention to promote women’s health.
i. In rural areas institutional systems such as rural Primary Health Centres and Family Welfare Centres are trying to promote women’s health. World Health Organisation, World Bank and Ford Foundation are also showing concern in providing medical protection to women and children.
Economic Development Programme for Women:
The Five Year Plans launched by the Government have paid due attention to enable women to attain greater economic participation. In some of the areas such as factories, offices, mining, clerical posts, teaching, nursing, banking, tea and coffee plantations, etc. women employees are found in a large number.
To protect the economic interests of the employed women various legislations such as Minimum Wages Act, 1948; Equal Wages Act, 1976; the Factories Amendment Act, 1976; etc. have been undertaken. The Karnataka and Andhra Governments have reserved some jobs for women in government sector.
i. Employment and Training of Women:
The Programme of Support to Training-cum- Employment for Women [STEP] was launched in 1987 to strengthen and improve the skills for employment opportunities for women below poverty line in traditional sectors of agriculture, small scale industries, animal husbandry, handlooms, handicrafts, cottage and village industries, sericulture, etc. where women are employed on a large scale.
The scheme of Condensed Courses of Education and Vocational Training [CCE&VT] for adult women started in 1958 is implemented by the Central Social Welfare Board. It aims at providing new vistas of employment through continuing education and vocational training to women and girls, particularly to school drop-outs. During the years 1997-1999, as many as 2,000 courses were sanctioned to benefit about 50,000 women and girls.
ii. Institutes for Providing Vocational Training for Women have been established at various places and in 1984 there were about 125 such institutes throughout the nation.
iii. Women’s National Training Institute was started in 1977 and its regional units in places such as Bombay, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Hissar, Calcutta were also opened. The Regional Training Institute at Bangalore gives “basic” and also modern training to about 1,426 girls and part-time training to about 141 girls every year.
iv. Socio-Economic Programme:
Under this programme, the Central Social Welfare Board gives financial assistance to the voluntary organisations for undertaking a wide variety of income-generating activities, which include the production of central components in ancillary units, handlooms, handicrafts, agro based activities such as animal husbandry, sericulture, and fisheries, and self employment ventures like vegetables or fish-vending, etc.
v. The Dairy Scheme focuses exclusively on women’s organisations having at least 20 women members, including Mahila Mandals, Indira Mahila Kendras, Self Help Groups and organisations already assisted under STEP scheme. The benefits of the scheme are meant for women whose families are below the poverty line.
vi. Mahila Samriddhi Yojana:
This scheme was launched on 2nd Oct. 1993, through a network of 1.32 lakh rural Post Offices to promote thrift among rural women and to empower them with greater control over their household sources. After the completion of 2 years of implementation of this Yojana it was decided to launch a new scheme which would cover approximately 885 blocks in which about 20 lakh women would be benefited.
vii. Rashtriya Mahila Kosh [RMK]:
The national credit fund for women called The Rashtriya Mahila Kosh was set up in 1992-93 with a corpus fund of Rs.31 crores with a major objective of meeting the credit needs of poor women, particularly in the informal sector. The Minister of State for Women and Child Development is the Chairperson of this Kosh. The RMK has sanctioned up to 31st March 1998, loans of Rs.47.85 crores to benefit 2.50 lakh women through 256 NGOs.
viii. Working Women’s Hostels have been established in towns and cities mainly to provide board and lodging facilities to rural women who move on to urban centres to obtain jobs. Governmental and private agencies are taking initiative in opening such hostels.
In some hostels, day-care centres for children of these women are also attached. During 1992-93 as many as 23 additional hostels were sanctioned to provide accommodation to 2,269 working women. This brought the total number of hostels to over 811 [by 1999] benefiting over 56,974 working women.
ix. The National Committee for Women Welfare is instituted for framing appropriate policies for women welfare to suit to the changing needs of time.
x. Indira Mahila Yojana [IMY]:
The Indira Mahila Yojana that aims at organising women at the grass root level to facilitate their participation in decision making and empowerment, was launched on 20th August 1995, in 200 Integrated Child Development Services [ICDS] blocks. The strength of the scheme lies in the strength of group dynamics. The objectives of the scheme are – awareness generation among the women from rural areas and urban slums and economic empowerment of women.
The Central Social Welfare Board [CSWB] was set up in 1953 with the objective of promoting social welfare activities and implementing welfare programmes for women, children and the handicapped through voluntary organisations.
The CSWB is unique in the sense that it was the first organisation in post independent era to achieve people’s participation for implementation of welfare programmes for women and children through the Non-Government Organisations [NGOs].
The CSWB established by the Planning Commission, has its own women welfare programmes such as providing housing protection to weak and helpless women, fallen women, helpless widows; creating centres of social education for women and adult education centres, condensed courses of education and vocational training courses for women and girls, awareness generation projects for rural and poor women, family counselling centres, holiday camps for children, welfare extension projects in border areas, opening centres for giving healthy entertainment to the women, giving assistance to creches and hostels for working women, etc.
The Board gives financial subsidy of Rs. 50,000/- annually to those private agencies [NGOs] which provide good service to the women. Presently, more than 18,000 NGOs are receiving financial assistance and guidance from the Board.
Voluntary organisation in the service of women:
(i) Mobile Creches for working mothers children aged upto 12 years; (ii) “Annapoorna” women’s co-operative Society to provide mid-day meal to working women; (iii) Self-Employed Women Association, a registered trade union to organise women rag-pickers, head-loaders, junksmith, fish vendors, bamboo-workers, beedi workers, block- printers, used garment dealers has come into being to get a fair deal for women workers.
It is true that the Central and the State governments have undertaken various legislative and other measures for promoting the welfare of women. We cannot, however, say that the intended purpose of the Governments is fulfilled and the targeted persons have received all the benefits.
The educated, middle class and upper caste women of towns and cities have taken relatively greater advantage of these measures, whereas the vast mass of uneducated, lower class and lower caste women of the rural areas are not even aware of most of these welfare measures.
The deficiencies involved in these measures and the inefficient implementation of the developmental programmes by the indifferent bureaucrats have come in the way of the success of these measures. In spite of these shortcomings, the awareness of women regarding these measures is slowly growing.
After the lapse of a few centuries, the society is becoming slowly aware of the historic necessity of providing women a respectable position in society and paying special attention to the problems haunting them.