Maternity Benefit Programme criticised

The programme imposes conditions like institutional delivery, benefit for only first live birth

GN Bureau | May 19, 2017


#Maternity Benefit Programme   #Janani Suraksha Yojana   #Right to Food campaign   #cabinet  

 The cabinet’s decision to roll out Maternity Benefit Programme (MBP), giving cash entitlement of Rs 6,000 to pregnant/lactating mother “comes as an unwarranted move after it is merged with the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY)”, says a press release by the Right to Food Campaign.

Being one of the organisations that have worked on National Food Security Act (NFSA) since its initial stages, the RTF campaign says, “MBP has been linked to institutional deliveries, possibly to further reduce the funds allocated, and therefore merged with the JSY. It is an older scheme that was started with an entirely different purpose which was to incentivise institutional deliveries whereas the MBP is intended to provide wage compensation just as it does in the formal sector and has been included in the National Food Security Act (NFSA) as a minimum of Rs 6000 for that purpose alone.”
 
The two schemes have a distinctive purpose to serve.  Economist John Dreze wrote in The Hindu, “In a presentation made at Vigyan Bhavan on February 22, 2017, the secretary, women and child development, explained that JSY would be “subsumed” under the maternity benefit scheme from next year, as the latter provides a “higher amount for institutional delivery”. In other words, maternity benefits will be made conditional on institutional delivery, in violation of the NFSA, and further, this linkage will be taken as an excuse to discontinue JSY, even though maternity entitlements and JSY serve distinct purposes.”
 
Under MBP pregnant women and lactating mothers will receive a cash benefit of Rs 5,000 in three installments – Rs 1,000 on early registration of pregnancy; Rs 2,000 on atleast one antenatal checkup, after six months of pregnancy and RS 2,000 as third installment after child birth is registered and child has received vaccines and the remaining cash incentive will be given as per norms in MBP after an ‘institutional delivery’.
 
The cabinet also restricted the MBP to first birth. According to RTF campaign, there is no justification for this other than keeping the financial obligations to the minimum. As per the government’s estimate, the total cost of the programme till 2020 will be Rs 12,661 crore, where centre will contribute Rs. 7,932 crore. 
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation on December 12, 2016 announced pan-India implementation of MBP, without giving any reference of NFSA. Only the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) a pilot scheme was being run in 53 districts.
 
“All conditions attached to the current IGMSY scheme such as two child norm and age of marriage have been shown to be fundamentally discriminatory to both women and children affecting the most marginalised and vulnerable women from socially discriminated communities such as SC, ST and minorities putting their lives to risk. In the process of universalisation rather than withdrawing all conditionalities from IGMSY, the new scheme makes it even more restrictive,” reads the press release.
 

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