New Delhi: Expressing serious concern over NGOs raking in government funds in the name of women and child welfare, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi today stressed on the need to find “out-of-box” ways to empower women financially. 

Terming the trend of NGOs pocketing welfare funds as “frightening”, she said the government is in the process to fix the money drain issue and ensure actual contenders receive benefits.

Gandhi, addressing a conference ‘Defeating Poverty: Arthik Vikas Mahilaon Ke Saath’, batted for public private partnerships (PPP) and sought help through corporate social responsibility (CSR) to buck the trend.

“When we advertised for schemes by various departments of the Centre, we received 3,500 applications from NGOs in two months wishing to train women. Out of these, 2,500 were found to be fake,” Gandhi said, adding the interaction between the NGOs and government has turned “suspicious” given the trend.

The Union Minister for Women and Child Development also cited the example of Rashtriya Mahila Kosh a national credit fund for women – for which her ministry had received a total of 200 applications, which were all “fake”.

“This is really frightening as the demand was for Rs 300 crore. We have lost our energy in the names of NGOs which take money in our name and it doesn’t reach women,” she said.

She added through the PPP and CSR tie ups, the Ministry wants to set up centres in each state where 1,000 to 2,000 women would be provided financial and marketing training to be self-sufficient.

The Minister further said that in order to break the trend, the government has started training women in growing mushrooms, planting mehandi, producing papad, cultivating new forms of apples which can ensure monetary benefits among others.

“If we plant trees in the names of women and children like in Maharashtra, or say in land or parks, we will be able to create not just cheaper fruits but much richer people,” she said.

She also cited the example of how her late mother-in-law and former prime minister Indira Gandhi had empowered local women in Madhuban (Bihar) by enabling them to earn money through their paintings.