The Prime Minister’s announcement on the New Year’s eve, of doling out Rs 6000 to every pregnant mother in the country has raised many questions. The clause has been mentioned under the National Food Security Act, which was passed way back in 2013.
“The new government under Modi in 2014 had refused to roll out the maternity cash benefit clause under the act,” said Jashodhara Dasgupta, former convenor of National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights.
Even as the NFSA has been passed, an earlier scheme Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahayog Yojana (IGMSY), which also promises that every pregnant woman be given Rs 6000 is operational in 53 districts as a ‘pilot,’ since 2010. “Supreme Court had pulled up the central government asking for an explanation for delay in it’s implementation” said Kavita Shrivasatava, President, People’s Union For Civil Liberties.
According to Registrar General of India data, there are close to 2.9 crore pregnant women in India every year. “This means that if the benefits have to be extended to all the women in India, it will cost the exchequer Rs 16000 crore,” said Dasgupta. The annual budget allocation for IGMSY is Rs 400 crore at present.
“A real test of what the Prime Minister’s announcement meant will be to see how much the budget next month will be allocated,”said Shrivastava. Under IGMSY, benefits are giving to only those beneficiaries who are over 19 years of age and do not have more than two children. “Moreover, PM also mentioned that the woman will have to be admitted in a hospital and also get her baby fully immunized to get the cash,”said Dasgupta.
These conditionalities are problematic. According to government’s own admission when it launched late last year, Pradhan Mantri Matritva Suraksha Abhiyan, it had said that 19.7 per cent pregnant women recieve doctor’s services. Also, only close to 40 per cent women deliver in hospitals across India.
“The announcement does not mention if it is linked to IGMSY or NFSA. In remote areas of Maharashtra in districts like Nandurbar or Gadhchiroli, where hospitals are far off, how will the woman access services?,” quips Dr Abhay Shukla, Convenor, Jan Arogya Abhiyan (JAA).
In Maharashtra, according to the latest NHFS – 4 report, upto Rs 3487 are spent as out of pocket expenditure by the woman on delivery of the baby. “Money is spent on diagnostics, medicines, sonography tests etc. These procedures are declared free under Janani Suraksha Shishu Karyakram (JSSK), yet another scheme announced by central government in 2011, but is lagging in implementation,” said Dr Shukla.
NOT ENOUGH FUNDS
According to Registrar General of India data, there are close to 2.9 crore pregnant women in India every year. “This means that if the benefits have to be extended to all the women in India, it will cost the exchequer Rs 16000 crores,” said Dasgupta.