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Modi misled nation by announcing UPA's 2013 maternal benefit scheme as new, his own: Data analysis site

By Our Representative
A top data analysis site has said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim of “new” maternity benefit scheme of Rs 6,000 to be transferred directly to the beneficiary is “misleading”. Announced on December 31, 2016, it is meant for pregnant women, who undergo institutional delivery and vaccinate their children.
“We fact-checked his claim, and found that the provision of Rs 6,000 to pregnant women already exists as part of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013”, says Devanik Saha, who is at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, in the site's analysis, insisting, “Therefore, his claim of the benefit being a new scheme is incorrect.”
The Act has "a special focus" on the nutritional support to women and children, according to the relevant provision of the NFSA, Saha says, adding, besides meal to pregnant women and lactating mothers during pregnancy and six months after the child birth, such women are to be "entitled to receive maternity benefit of not less than Rs 6,000.”
Pointing towards how this came about, the analysis says, “The Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY), a maternity benefit programme introduced in 2010, provides for conditional cash transfer for pregnant and lactating women of 19 years or older for first two live births. It is operational in 52 districts as a ‘pilot’.”
It adds, “The cash incentive provided under the scheme was increased from Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000 in 2013 to comply with the minimum maternity entitlement provision of the NFSA”, though regretting, even after three years of the Act was passed, the benefit has not been implemented in any state, including his own, Gujarat. The only exception is Tamil Nadu.
In fact, says the site, “The All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government in Tamil Nadu, in 1987, under former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran, launched the state’s flagship programme for pregnant women – Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy Maternity Benefit Scheme, named after the prominent women’s rights activist.”
Calling it “the first-of-its-kind scheme in the country”, the site says, initially the scheme provided “an amount of Rs 300 to every woman below the poverty line to help cover the expenses incurred during childbirth.”
“The sum was increased to Rs 500 in 1995. A little over a decade later, the amount was raised more than ten-fold to Rs 6,000. Then, in 2011, the state government doubled the sum to Rs 12,000”, the site says.
The result, says the site, is that “Tamil Nadu has the second lowest infant mortality rate (20 per 1,000 live births) among all states in India, only behind Kerala (12).”
Government figures show that Modi’s Gujarat has an IMR of 35 per 1,000 live births, higher than 10 out of 21 major states. The states which perform better than Gujarat, apart from Tamil Nadu and Kerala, include Himachal Pradesh (32 per 1000 live births), Jammu and Kashmir (34), Jharkhand (34), Karnataka (29), Maharashtra (22), Punjab (24), Uttarakhand (33), and West Bengal (28).
The site further says, the programme further helped Tamil Nadu reduce maternal mortality rate, which is 90 per 100,000 live births compared to the national average of 178.
Modi’s announcement of Rs 6,000 as maternal benefit comes following a letter to him by members of several civil rights organizations and writ petition in the Supreme Court. Those who wrote to Modi included National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights, Alliance for Right to Early Child Development, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, and Right to Food Campaign.
The letter reminds Modi that “section 4(b) of the NFSA provides for maternity entitlements of Rs 6,000 for all pregnant women, except regular public sector employees, who currently have more substantial entitlements in keeping with global norms.”
Calling it “one of the most important provisions of the Act”, the letter regrets, “the Central Government has completely ignored it. The law has been grossly violated for more than three years, without any justification whatsoever.”
The letter says, the Ministry of Woman and Child Development filed a very misleading affidavit to the Supreme Court on October 30, 2015, “claiming that it was planning to extend the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) from 53 ‘pilot districts’ to 200 districts in 2015-6 and to all districts in 2016-17.”
It adds, “Contrary to this claim, the budget allocation for IGMSY in the 2016-17 Union Budget remains a measly Rs 400 crore (as in 2015-16 and 2014-15), making it impossible to go beyond the 53 pilot districts. Universal maternity entitlements of Rs 6,000 per child, a very modest and outdated norm, would require an annual allocation of Rs 15,000 crore at the very least.”

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