Activists demand universalisation of Maternity benefit scheme

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Activists demand universalisation of Maternity benefit scheme

  • The government has recently announced that the maternity benefit programme which provides ₹5,000 for first child will be extended to cover the second child only if it is a girl
  • This has met with sharp criticism from activists who have demanded that the programme be universalised.

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)

  • This scheme was launched in 2017 and being implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development
  • It 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
  • It provides cash benefits for the birth of the first child to partially compensate a woman for loss of wages.
  • Cash incentive of Rs 5000 is provided 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.
  • It also aims to improve the nutritional well-being of the mother and the child.

Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY)

  • It was launched in April 2005 by modifying the National Maternity Benefit Scheme (NMBS)
  • It is an intervention for safe motherhood under the National Rural Health Mission (NHM).
  • It’s objective is to reduce maternal and infant mortality by promoting institutional delivery among pregnant women.
  • The beneficiary women is given nearly ₹1,000 for an institutional birth
  • It is being implemented by the Department of Health & Family Welfare
  • The scheme also provides performance based incentives to women health volunteers known as ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) for promoting institutional delivery among pregnant women.

Arguments of govt in support of decision

  • The scheme is revamped to discourage pre-birth sex selection and promote the girl child
  • Women will be able to access the scheme only after the delivery, which will not have any impact on their nutritional uptake during the course of their pregnancy,
  • One of the objectives of the scheme is to also improve health seeking behaviour of women and, therefore, the first instalment of ₹1,000 is given after ascertaining early registration of pregnancy and the second instalment of ₹2,000 is given after an ante-natal check after six months of pregnancy and the final instalment of ₹2,000 is given after the registration of the child birth and vaccinations for the newborn

Arguments of Activists against the decision

  • They argue that providing maternity benefit only to the mother of the first-born is illegal as the National Food Security Act, 2013 lays down that every pregnant woman and lactating mother are entitled to it.
  • The scheme needs to be universalised to overcome bureaucratic hurdles which are created after adding more conditions to the scheme
  • During COVID-19 in the past two years, ASHA [accredited social health activist]workers have not been giving out contraceptive supplies as the State has failed to provide contraceptive services then it is not appropriate to penalise women for having babies

Significance of Maternity benefit schemes

  • About 56,000 women in India die every year due to pregnancy related complications.
  • Similarly, every year more than 13 lakh infants die within 1year of their birth and out of these approximately 2/3rd of the infant deaths take place within the first four weeks of life.
  • Out of these, approximately 75% of the deaths take place within a week of the birth and a majority of these occur in the first two days after birth.
  • Women in rural communities experience higher rates of life-threatening complications during or after childbirth than mothers in urban cities, a new study finds.
  • So role of such maternity benefit scheme is very important in improving both child and maternal health and eventually empowerment of the nation

Way forward

  • Policies and programs aiming to improve maternal health and reduce adverse events associated with delivery must address the unique health needs and challenges face by women
  • There is an urgent need for better implementation as well as for compliance of the PMMVY 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 so that issues related to maternity can be addressed properly