FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) , the woman business wing of the women wing of apex business body Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has welcomed the Union Budget for the year 2018-19 and termed it as a concerted effort by the Government to achieve the goal of women empowerment in the truest sense as well as a special emphasis on gender development. “As the National President of FLO and a woman entrepreneur, I salute this symbolic action and applaud a gender inclusive and gender responsive budget. About 50% of India’s potential has been lying untapped. PM Modi’s budget will unleash the dormant Stri Shakti of India.” Said Ms Vasvi Bharat Ram, President, FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) while reacting to the Union Budget for the year 2018-19 presented today in Parliament. “Women are at the center stage of India’s robust economic growth and strong global position. The quantum of allocations for schemes relating to women has increased and the nodal agencies for women in the country consequently have further strengthened.The announcement of reduced rates of deductions to 8 percent for the first 3 years, from women’s salaries for various schemes managed by the Employee Provident Fund Organisation is a welcome step. It will be a step further in bridging the huge gender gap between women and men workers in the country.” Ms Bharat Ram said. “The Finance Minister's budget also took into consideration the success of the Ujjwala scheme that gave women free gas connections. We welcome the government’s decision to give 8 crore rural women free gas connection through Ujjwala yojana.” She said. “In an attempt to give impetus to the agriculture sector, the government has promoted organic farmers in a big way and they will encourage women self-help groups to take up organic farming.We highly applaud the thrust in women’s participation in the Small and Medium Enterprises by giving them incentive through the Mudra loan scheme. Seventy-six percent of the loans will be given to women, which is definitely a booster.” She added. “The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme, Sukanya Samridhi Yojana scheme, and mandatory maternity leave rules are yielding encouraging results. With this budget, I anticipate uniform implementation of the government schemes under this initiative, specifically in the grassroots. It is also heartening to see implementing strategies and increased allocations in the social sector in health, education and sanitation.”Ms Bharat Ram said. “We are pleased that goods like Bindi, Sindoor, Kajal, Bangles which are specifically used by women come under no tax slot and we look forward to inclusion of other pertinent women hygiene products like sanitary napkins and appreciate the government driven initiatives to give free sanitary pads in schools and sell subsidized pads” she said.. “Being the first Union budget after implementation of GST ,we foresee a further impetus in entrepreneurship, empowering more women to flourish in this space.In alignment with PM Modi’s digital India vision, we foresee financial stability for women via cashless transactions and seamless policies on start-ups.” She said. “The proposal of treating education holistically without segmentation will be a huge boost to the education sector. Further, moving from blackboard to digital board will bring about the most needed digital transformation.The step towards universal healthcare by starting the Ayushman Bharat programme, which will give 10 crore poor and vulnerable families a coverage of Rs 5 lakh each for hospital expense and also invigorate the healthcare sector by increasing the number of hospitals and improve the quality of medical colleges. We hope that that this will generate increased employability as well , with special focus on job creation for women.” The FLO president said. “ I am hopeful, I am confident, that with the trajectory of PM Modi’s budget 2018-2019, women will soon find their glorious position back in our society. “ she said.