• Oxford defines empowerment as a process of becoming stronger and confident especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s right. Social empowerment hence is a process whereby the marginalized and downtrodden develop a sense of autonomy and self confidence, both at the individual and group level, to change social and political relationships in a manner which in turn will bring about their mainstreaming. Empowerment of a man/woman entails three aspects.
    • The ownership of physical assets (land and property)
    • Human capital (health and education)
    • Social status and psychological confidence.
  • Social empowerment is indispensable in achieving a dignified life for people with disabilities and it is both, a means and the end.
  • It must also be kept in mind that empowerment is done at various levels and it a dynamic concept. It includes social, economic, political and cultural dimensions of the concept.
  • Empowerment envisages hopes for groups like those of unorganized workers, tribals, differently abled, dalits women and those steeped in poverty and vulnerable.
  • In retrospect, Social empowerment hence is a process whereby the marginalized and downtrodden develop a sense of autonomy and self confidence, (at the individual, group and the community level), to change social and political relationships in a manner which in turn will bring about their mainstreaming.


  • Social development is a process which results in the transformation of social institutions in a manner which improves the capacity of the society to fulfill its aspirations. It implies a qualitative change in the way the society shapes itself and carries out its activities, such as through more progressive attitudes and behavior by the population, the adoption of more effective processes or more advanced technology. As you see in the illustration below, there is a close relation among environments, ways of living and technology.
  • Economic development is the development of economic wealth of countries or regions for the well-being of their inhabitants. Economic growth is often assumed to indicate the level of economic development. The term “economic growth” refers to the increase (or growth) of a specific measures such as real national income, gross domestic product, or per capita income. The term economic development on the other hand, implies much more. It is the process by which a nation improves the economic, political, and social wellbeing of its people.
  • Socio-economic development, thus, is a process of improvement in a variety of ways. It has to influence all aspects of human life in a country. But do you think the concept of socio-economic development takes care of all aspects of development? Its major indicator, the GDP is a specific measure of economic welfare that does not take into account important aspects such as leisure time, environmental quality, freedom, social justice, or gender equality. Another indicator, the per capita income also does not indicate the level of income equality among people. These indicators do not ensure that the benefits of development have been equally distributed and have reached particularly to the disadvantaged groups of society. Which is why, a new concept of human development is being used. It is focused on the overall quality of life that people enjoy in a country, the opportunities they have and the freedoms they enjoy.


  • For the development and empowerment of scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs), other backward classes (OBCs), minorities, disabled and other social groups in order to bring them at par with the rest of society is a commitment enshrined in the Constitution.
  • To create an enabling environment that is conducive for these groups to exercise their rights freely, enjoy their privileges and be able to lead a life with confidence and dignity.
  • To ensure removal of disparities, eliminating exploitation and suppression and providing protection to the disadvantaged groups.
  • To ensure that developmental benefits reach the unreached through equitable distribution.
  • To ensure the involvement of the socially disadvantaged groups in the process of planning not merely as beneficiaries but also as participants in the formulation of need-based programmes/projects, as well as their implementation, supervision and monitoring
  • To accelerate the on-going process of improving the socio-economic status of the disadvantaged groups through effective implementation of various policies and programmes and thus bring them at par with rest of the society.


1.The Concept

  • Economic empowerment is thought to allow poor people to think beyond immediate daily survival and to exercise greater control over both their resources and life choices. For example, it enables households to make their own decisions around making investments in health and education, and taking risks in order to increase their income.
  • There is also some evidence that economic empowerment can strengthen vulnerable groups’ participation in the decision-making. For example, microfinance programmes have been shown to bolster women’s influence within the household and marketplace. The evidence also suggests that economic power is often easily ‘converted’ into increased social status or decision-making power.

2.Economic empowerment through financial inclusion

  1. Steps taken by the Government
    • As an initial step banks have been nationalised, provisions have been made for priority sector lending requirements for banks; lead bank scheme; Regional Rural Banks (RRBs); and self-help groups (SHGs).
    • Multiple steps have been taken by RBI over the years to increase access to the poorer segments of society.
    • Financial inclusion is the process of ensuring access to financial services, timely and adequate credit for needy weaker sections and low income groups at an affordable rate.
    • Financial inclusion has become one of the most critical aspects in the context of inclusive growth and development.
    • Financial inclusion has become a top policy priority of the central government to ensure egalitarian society as the substantial population of India lives with economic insecurity.
  2. Barriers for Financial Inclusion 
    • From the demand side, the reasons are low income, poverty and illiteracy and lack of awareness.
    • From the supply side branch proximity, timings, cumbersome documentation and procedures,attitude of the bank staff and language.
    • Low penetration of financial services, less efficiency of business correspondents also limits the success of financial inclusion.
    • Marginal farmers, landless labourers, oral lessees, self-employed and unorganised sector enterprises, urban slum dwellers, migrants or ethnic minorities and socially excluded groups, senior citizens and women are out of the preview of financial inclusion.
    • Lack of financial literacy and poor marketing of financial products leads to low awareness among urban poor depending on the informal credit sources.
    • There is also a large degree of self-exclusion due to the existence of informal credit sources meeting their convenience.
    • The complex financial services market offers a wide range of products; however lack of awareness restricts the use of these products


A)The Concept

  • It is commonly argued that supporting people to influence the policy-making process and participate in decision-making is critical to the development of policies that reflect the needs and interests of the poor. Promoting political participation is an important way of improving state accountability and responsiveness, and empowering the poor.
  • This can encompass a range of approaches, including strengthening democratic citizenship, promoting engagement between the state and civil society, promoting access to information, and strengthening citizens’ associations. Decentralisation, civil society activism, and the transparency of and access to information also play a key role in strengthening accountability.
  • Empowerment demands political inclusion in the institutions of decision-making and a change in the existing power relations, where certain sections of society remain outside the decision making arena due to their specific historical socio-cultural experiences.
  • In a democratic political structure, empowerment entails proper and effective representation in the institutions of governance, so that people can voice their concerns and participate in decision making on matters that affect their lives.
  • Political representation of marginalised in the institutions of governance will provide them with substantial power to negotiate the power relations with the privileged sections of society.

B)73rd Constitutional Amendment :

  • The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act came into force on 24th April 1993. It gave constitutional status to PRIs and it became mandatory to all state governments to implement this act.
  • It gave impetus to Panchayati Raj to promote social and economic development and improvement in living conditions of rural India.
  • Creation of Panchayati Raj is perhaps the best transformation in democratic India to realise the participation of ordinary people in power sharing
  1. Marginalised Sections in PRIs 
    • At present, 17 states are implementing 50% reservation to women at all levels of Panchayati Raj
    • The elected representatives of SCs and STs are actively participating in decision-making and implementation of different pro-poor programmes at Panchayati level.
    • It is understood that SC leaders accord priority to the developmental activities which leads to benefit of their community.
    • The awareness level among the rural masses of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Sikkim has brought significant changes in the functioning of Gram Sabha and are successfully implementing the decisions of Gram Sabha.
    • Tamil Nadu government has issued orders to conduct the Gram Sabha on 26 January, 15 August, 1 May and 2 October every year without fail. Madhya Pradesh conducts more than 16 Gram Sabha meetings annually. This is a good way of self-governance at the grassroots level.
    • Political empowerment of women in Panchayati raj has enhanced their social status. It has enabled them to participate in all matters connected with the society on an egalitarian basis.
  2. Marginalised Sections: Challenges
    • States such as Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh have introduced the two-child norm as eligibility criteria for contesting elections. It is more detrimental to women especially to the SCs and STs because majority of the families follow the big and joint family norm.
    • The continued dominance of traditional/dominant groups in rural India and the constitutional provisions of 73rd Amendment have intensified the conflict ridden rural situation which result in the violations of human rights on mass scale.
    • This shows that the tussle of power exists not just between state and panchayats, but also between the traditional dominant power structure and emerging new leadership from the marginalised groups at the grassroots.


  • The urgent need for empowerment of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the country was realized in India on the eve of independence to reduce the regional disparities and uplift the status of these communities.
  • Constitution of India makes a number of commitments under its various provisions for the development of these groups. Towards fulfilling the commitments, the Government of India has adopted a three-pronged strategy of
    1. Social Empowerment;
    2. Economic Empowerment; and
    3. Social Justice to ensure removal of disparities, elimination of exploitation and suppression and to provide protection to these disadvantaged groups.
  1. Social Empowerment : Education being the most effective instrument for socio-economic empowerment of the disadvantaged groups, high priority continues to be accorded to improve the educational status of these groups. The following measures are important for social empowerment of this group :
    • With respect to elementary education, various incentives in the form of abolition of tuition fee, free supply of books, mid-day meals, and scholarships are provided. Special focus has also been on ST students in Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Navodaya Vidyalaya and National Talent Search Scheme.
    • There are also major scholarship programmes. Post-Matric Scholarships are awarded to promote higher education beyond matriculation. Pre-Matric Scholarships are given to encourage children of scavengers and those engaged in menial works to pursue education.
    • Coaching facilities are provided to students preparing for various competitive examinations.
    • Hostel facilities are provided to both girls and boys for pursuing education from upper primary stage onwards.
    • An important act for protection and dignity of members of SC and ST community is the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
    • The Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana:(PMAGY) envisages an integrated development of SC majority villages, through convergent implementation of central and state schemes, by providing central gap-filling assistance
    • Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers: A National Survey of Manual Scavengers in 170 identified districts and 18 states has been undertaken, coordinated and monitored by NSKFDC (National SafaiKaramcharis Finance and Development Corporation).
    • Emphasis is also being laid on spreading awareness about the provisions of the “Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013” by organising workshops in big municipalities.
  1. Economic Empowerment : Employment and income generation programmes have been launched for the economic empowerment of socially disadvantaged groups. The following apex financial organizations have been set up:
    • The National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC) provides financial and other support to beneficiaries for taking up various income generating activities.
    • The National Safai Karamchari Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC) provides financial and other support to safai karamcharis for taking up various income generating activities.
    • The National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation (NSTFDC) supports various income and employment generating activities through loans, marketing support, training and so on.
    • The Scheduled Castes Development Corporations (SCDCs) finance employment oriented schemes that cover agriculture and allied activities including minor irrigation, small scale industry, transport and trade and service sector.
    • The Scheduled Tribes Development Corporations (STDCs) function as channellizing agencies and extending financial and other assistance to beneficiaries. The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Ltd. (TRIFED) provides marketing assistance to STs for collection of minor forest produce and surplus agricultural produce.
  1. Social Justice : The Constitution of India guarantees protection from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. Some protective legislations have also been made. The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 are important
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