As electoral demographics shift, Jagan govt goes big on schemes for women
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has launched the fourth tranche of a scheme called Jagananna Amma Vodi (Mother’s Lap), which targets mothers of students from Class 1 to Intermediate from poor families.
Under the scheme, the government credits Rs 13,000 per family into the accounts of mothers for the educational expenses of the children from households earning up to Rs 6 lakh a year. Jagan released Rs 6,392.94 crore for this scheme this year alone and, over the years, Rs 66,722 crore has been disbursed.
Though Jagan promised Rs 15,000 per mother, only Rs 13,000 is being credited after deducting Rs 2,000 in the name of providing amenities at schools.
The scheme benefits 42.61 lakh mothers who account for nearly 9 per cent of the total electorate of 4.07 crore (as of 2022).
The Amma Vodi scheme was launched in 2020 to encourage mothers to send their children to government schools, which already provide everything — uniform, shoes, books, and copies of the Oxford English Dictionary — free in addition to midday-meals. The scheme was later extended to eligible mothers of even children studying in private schools, as long as they met the income criteria.
Why are mothers given such priority? According to sources in the government, it is part of Jagan’s strategy to lure women to vote for the YSR Congress Party.
Jagan launched a plethora of schemes that target women. They get loans with 0 per cent rate of interest. Loans of women cooperative societies are cleared by the government in four instalments. Under a housing programme, registration is done in the name of a female family member.
“Women centric welfare schemes are a well-thought-out strategy of Jagan’s government. Mothers play a major role in educating the children at the school level. So, the government is trying to build a bond with mothers and children with Amma Vodi in the hope they will influence the mothers to vote in favour of YSR Congress in 2024,” an informed source said.
However, Anji Reddy of Acharya Nagarjuna University (ANU), Guntur, sees an interesting connection between Jagan’s women centric welfare schemes and the increasing number of women exercising their franchise now.
He said the percentage of women participation in voting is on the rise and many studies reveal that women have started voting uninfluenced by the male members of the family. “The trend of women exercising their franchise independent of men has begun. All political parties have noticed this change in women’s voting pattern and have been trying to woo them into their fold. Schemes such as free cooking gas connection, free cylinders, toilets, loan waivers to self-help groups are meant to influence women. The role of the assurance of free travel for women in RTC buses in the win of Congress in Karnataka cannot be ruled out,” he said.
Reddy added that there might be some correlation between Jagan’s women centric schemes like Amma Vodi and the growing number of women participating in the polling.
A cursory glance of Election Commission data shows that women voters in Andhra Pradesh outnumbered men in as many as 101 of 175 constituencies in 2019. In 2019, there was an increase in women voter turnout by 1.37 per cent over that of 2014. In terms of absolute numbers, 13.75 lakh more women exercised their franchise in 2019 vis à vis 2014 while the corresponding rise in male voters was just 1.1 per cent. And women voters outnumbered men by 2.40 lakh in 2019.
“In an election where parties are involved in a tough fight, a small fraction is enough to play havoc,” said Reddy, who teaches political science in ANU.
But teachers in government schools are unhappy over the extending of Amma Vodi to private schools, saying this is affecting the enrolment in government schools.
The teachers who spoke to The Federal from Kadapa, Kurnool, Krishna, Guntur and Vizianagaram districts said the scheme, along with recent reforms in school education, had forced many parents to opt for private schools.
“Compared to last year, this year the strength has come down in primary schools after the merger of Classes 3, 4 and 5 to high schools. With only five to six students left in some schools, they could get closed down. Many primary schools have become single-teacher schools. These changes are making parents enrol their children in private schools,” a Mandal level education officer from Kadapa said on the condition of anonymity.
He felt that however lofty the scheme may be, extending it to private schools was hurting government schools.
An undeterred YSR Congress is hopeful that with educational schemes like Jagannana Vidya Kanuka, Nadu-Nedu and Amma Vodi, women will overwhelmingly vote for Jagan.