Positive changes sweep the backward region of the district.
A QUIET revolution is sweeping across the backward and naxalite-infested Palnadu region of Guntur district. Women are emerging from the confines of their kitchens to become empowered financially. Women who have formed self-help groups earn between Rs.2,000 and Rs.5,000 a month from their spare-time activity, which involves making hand-embroidered sarees and dress materials.
This self-reliance has been made possible through the skill-development programmes offered for women and unemployed youth by the Society for Training and Employment Promotion (STEP) under the Ministry of Youth Affairs, with the active cooperation of local non-governmental organisations (NGOs). All the beneficiaries of the programme belong to families living below the poverty line (BPL), whose annual incomes were below Rs.20,000. Out of the 14 vocation trainings on offer, a three-month course in fashion designing has been the most popular. The District Youth Welfare Officer and ex-officio Chief Executive Officer of STEP-Swasakthi, V. Mark, said the first batch of 200 women had completed their training and were preparing to set up their own units.
The initial response to the programme was not encouraging, but with women showing interest in the fashion designing course, more training centres have come up at various mandals. Training for the second batch of 75 women is expected to begin soon. The Youth Affairs Department funded the training by paying Rs.2,500 to each beneficiary. In the Palnadu region, training centres were set up in Narsaraopet, Piduguralla and Macherla towns. "We have decided to extend the role of the local NGOs in a big way in order to ensure accountability," Mark said.
N.V. Vijaya Lakhsmi, head of the Mahila Upadhi Sangham in Sattenpalli, said that of the 75 women who were trained in the institute, 60 got regular work. "They get Rs.700 for one piece of work they complete. The rise in demand for sarees with printed and hand-embroidered designs spurred more women to take up the course," she said. Women are also enrolling themselves for beautician training programmes. Seventy-five women underwent three-month training at two institutions at Narsaraopet and Guntur. The demand for beauticians in semi-urban pockets has made their effort worthwhile.
In view of the growing demand for trained professionals in the Information Technology-enabled Services (ITES), STEP has tied up with the Guntur branch of C2C and trained 92 graduates for jobs in call centres. More than 50 youth were selected for employment as security guards, while 49 persons, trained in hotel management, got placements in various hotels. Some 200 youth were trained in basic computer operations and desk-top publishing. They have found placements in small-scale industries.
"Maarpu", an important programme of STEP, helps wean unemployed youth away from the influence of extremist elements. Training is provided to qualified youth in coordination with Dr. Reddy's Labs. Youth thus trained have found jobs in fields such as customer relations and sales, ITES, and automobile servicing and the hospitality industry.
STEP has been disbursing loans as part of another scheme, Rajiv Yuvasakthi. Unemployed youth, whose annual family incomes are below Rs.50,000 are eligible for the loan. In 2006-07, loans ranging between Rs.50,000 and Rs.5 lakhs were released to 3,594 beneficiaries.