Various studies have been conducted on the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), a maternity benefit programme, nearly one year after it was officially launched.
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.
Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) –
The PMMVY was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 31, 2016. Changes in NFSA have been introduced in the following 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.
- 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.
- The application process is cumbersome and exclusionary: a separate form has to be filled, signed and submitted for each of the three instalments.
- The compulsory linking of the applicant’s bank account with Aadhaar often causes problems.
- The PMMVY provides little assistance to women who lose their baby, because the successive payments are made only if the corresponding conditionalities are met.
Issues that need redressal –
- The worst form of hardship reported by pregnant women was the inability to improve their nutritional intake or even to eat properly during pregnancy.
- Most studies conducted found that women who were working for wages before pregnancy had to borrow money to meet the expenses. It is also common for the families 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, undermines this provision due to the dilution of the entitled amount and the exclusion criteria.
- The scheme is yet to reach eligible women as the implementation record has been dismal till date.
Way forward –
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.
Source – The Hindu
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