Context: The government’s maternity benefit programme must be implemented better and comply with the Food Security Act
Mains syllabus: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the centre and states and the performance of these schemes – (GS paper II)
Difference of Meternity benefit under National food Security Act and Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojna (PMMVY):
- Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) of 2013, every pregnant woman is entitled to maternity benefits of ₹6,000, unless she is already receiving similar benefits as a government employee or under other laws. The PMMVY was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 31, 2016.
- Unfortunately, it seems to violates the NFSA in several ways.
- First, the benefits have been reduced from ₹6,000 to ₹5,000 per child.
- Second, they are now restricted to the first living child.
- Third, they are further restricted to women above the age of 18 years.
- The scheme largely defeats the purpose it is supposed to serve: according to a recent analysis, it excludes more than half of all pregnancies because first-order births account for only 43% of all births in India.
- 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 the details of a bank account linked to her Aadhaar number. The compulsory linking of the applicant’s bank account with Aadhaar often causes problems.
- Further, the PMMVY provides little assistance to women who lose their baby, because the successive payments are made only if the corresponding conditionalities are met.
Problem Associated with the Scheme
- The worst form of hardship reported by pregnant women, lack of funds, inability to improve their nutritional intake or even to eat properly during pregnancy.
- 42% of respondents in the sub-sample of women who were working for wages before pregnancy with an average wage of ₹126 per day of work could not work during their pregnancy and earned zero wage. Half of the respondents who had spent money during delivery or pregnancy said that they had to borrow money to meet the expenses. It was also common for the families of the respondents to sell assets or migrate to cover these costs.
- The PMMVY could help protect poor families from these financial contingencies. The provision for maternity entitlements in the NFSA is very important for women who are not employed in the formal sector.
- The PMMVY, however, seems to 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 not been encouraging till date.
The scheme seems to be achieving very little for now. 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.