Insights into Editorial: Without maternity benefits

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Insights into Editorial: Without maternity benefits


Introduction:

Under – nutrition continues to adversely affect majority of women in India. In India, every third woman is undernourished and every second woman is anaemic.

An undernourished mother almost inevitably gives birth to a low birth weight baby. When poor nutrition starts in utero, it extends throughout the life cycle since the changes are largely irreversible.

Owing to economic and social distress many women continue to work to earn a living for their family right up to the last days of their pregnancy.

Furthermore, they resume working soon after childbirth, even though their bodies might not permit it, thus preventing their bodies from fully recovering on one hand, and also impeding their ability to exclusively breastfeed their young infant in the first six months.

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana  (PMMVY) is a Maternity Benefit Programme that is implemented in all the districts of the country in accordance with the provision of the National Food Security Act, 2013.

 

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana  (PMMVY):

It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme implemented by Ministry of Women and Child Development.

  • The scheme is being implemented on a 60:40 cost-sharing basis with the State governments.
  • Maternity Benefit Programme would be implemented in all the districts of the country in accordance with the provision of the National Food Security Act, 2013.

 

  • It would provide grants-in-aid to the State Governments/ Union Territory Administrations (UTs) in a dedicated Escrow account for the purpose of direct benefit transfer to the beneficiaries.

 

 

  • PMMVY is implemented using the platform of Anganwadi Services scheme of Umbrella ICDS under Ministry of Women and Child Development.

 

  • PMMVY shall be implemented through a centrally deployed Web Based MIS Software application and the focal point of implementation would be the Anganwadi Centre (AWC) and ASHA/ ANM workers.

 

Objectives:

The objectives of the scheme are:

  • providing partial compensation for the wage loss in terms of cash incentives so that the woman can take adequate rest before and after delivery of the first living child; and
  • The cash incentives provided would lead to improved health seeking behaviour amongst the Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers.

 

Benefits under PMMVY:

Cash incentive of Rs 5000 in three instalments i.e. first instalment of Rs 1000 on early registration of pregnancy at the Anganwadi Centre (AWC) / approved Health facility as may be identified by the respective administering State / UT.

Second instalment of Rs 2000 after six months of pregnancy on receiving at least one ante-natal check-up (ANC) and

Third instalment of Rs 2000 after child birth is registered and the child has received the first cycle of BCG, OPV, DPT and Hepatitis – B, or its equivalent/ substitute.

The eligible beneficiaries would receive the incentive given under the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) for Institutional delivery and the incentive received under JSY would be accounted towards maternity benefits so that on an average a woman gets Rs 6000.

 

National Food Security Act,2013:

Every pregnant woman is entitled to maternity benefits of Rs. 6,000.

However, it excludes all those, whoever are receiving similar benefits as a Government employee or under other laws.

Critical aspects of PMMVY with respect to NFSA,2013: Rs. 5,000 in three instalments and Rs. 1,000 later. They are restricted to the first living child only. Eligibility is only to the women above the age of 18 years.

 

Recent Survey Reports:

  • PMMVY excludes more than half of the pregnancies because first-order births account for only 43% of all births in India. Hence, less than half of the women met the PMMVY eligibility criteria
  • Among those who were eligible, a little over half had applied for maternity benefits. The application process is cumbersome and exclusionary.

 

  • A separate form has to be filled, signed and submitted for each of the three instalments, along with a copy of the applicant’s mother-child protection card, Aadhaar card, husband’s Aadhaar card, details of the bank account linking to the Aadhaar number.

 

 

  • Number of women, who were working for wages before pregnancy, could not work during pregnancy and earned zero wages.

 

  • On an average, respondents spent Rs. 8,272 on their deliveries alone. Moreover, some of them spent money during delivery or pregnancy by borrowing.
  • It is also common for the families of the respondents to sell assets or migrate to cover these costs.

 

Conclusion:

The provision for maternity entitlements in the NFSA is very important for women who are not employed in the formal sector.

The PMMVY, however, undermines this provision due to the dilution of the entitled amount and the exclusion criteria.

Even in this restricted form, the scheme is yet to reach eligible women as the implementation record has been dismal till date.

There is an urgent need for better implementation as well as for compliance of the scheme with the NFSA.

Maternity benefits should be raised to ₹6,000 per child at least, for all pregnancies and not just the first living child.