How the Centre Can Ensure Women Receive Maternity Benefits -Vanita Leah Falcao, KC Sachin and Sabhil Nath Painkra
Increased budgetary allocation is a welcome step, but key aspects of the Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana scheme need to be reviewed.
The Union Budget brought with it a 17% increase in this year’s allocation for the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD).
Approximately 9% of the total allocation, which is Rs 29,000 crore, has been earmarked for the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY). The PMMVY is a Centrally sponsored conditional cash transfer of Rs 5,000 for pregnant and lactating women, being implemented since January 2017. This amount is meant to enable women over 18 years to rest and avail of better nutrition during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding their first child.
In India the argument often made regarding welfare provisioning is that there is no shortage of policies, however implementation is where the real problem lies.
Though this is largely true, in the case of the PMMVY, both design and implementation issues exist simultaneously.
The National Food Security Act 2013 (NFSA) recognises the right of every mother to a maternity benefit of no less than Rs 6,000, that is to be provisioned via schemes framed by the Central government. Given this, the PMMVY should account for the universal right to maternity entitlements, and the minimum cash amount mandated by the NFSA. However, in fact, by limiting the cash provision to Rs 5,000 and restricting the benefit to the first live birth of women over 18 years, the PMVVY subverts the NFSA.
Last December, 60 experts had written to erstwhile finance minister Arun Jaitley, stating that a Central government budget of Rs 8,000 crore is necessary to ensure the right to maternity benefits of all women defined as per the NFSA. This estimate was based on the crude birth rate of 19 per thousand and the 60:40 PMMVY fund share ratio between the Central and state government.
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