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Modi scheme "deprives" entitlement to 57% pregnant women; 95% working in informal sector not to get maternal benefit

By Our Representative
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-publicized Pradhan Mantri Matru Vendana Yojana (PMMVY), “launched” last year, will deprive entitlement to 57% of needy pregnant mothers. Revealing this, India’s well-known advocacy group, Right to Food Campaign (RFC) has said this is the direct consequence of restriction imposed to providing benefit to “to only the first birth”.
Calling the conditionality “fundamentally discriminatory to the most marginalized and vulnerable women from socially discriminated communities such as scheduled castes and tribes (SCs and STs) and minorities, putting their lives at risk”, RFC says the Sample Registration System report on fertility indicators show that only “43% of the current live births in India are first order births”.
Insisting that “maternity entitlements are a critical tool to fight malnutrition and infant and maternal mortality”, RFC says, the failure to provide entitlement to such a big number of pregnant women has come about after a series of Government of India steps to undermine the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.
PMMVY, which is the direct successor of the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY), initiated by the UPA government, interestingly, provides just Rs 5,000 to pregnant women, as against Rs 6,000, which came into effect after the NFSA, 2013 was passed.
Yet another step taken to undermine maternal benefit to pregnant women, says RFC, was the amended Maternity Benefits Act (MBA), which, even while expanding maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks, “covers only about 18 lakh women in the organised sector, whereas over 2.3 crore deliveries take place in India each year.”
“The MBA does not include in its ambit more than 95% of women in the country who work in the informal sector”, RFC complains, adding, “It is unacceptable that a wage compensation of less than half of minimum wages, that too only for one birth, should be the norm for the rest of women under the PMMVY.”
“In fact”, says the top advocacy group, “The modest maternity entitlement under the PMMVY is barely equivalent to five weeks of minimum wages in Bihar (compared to the more than 6 months of paid leave offered in the formal sector)”, adding, “With the PMMVY, the government has squandered the opportunity created by the NFSA, 2013.”
Demanding that not only should the Government of India create a situation under which the negative PMMVY changes should be reversed, RFC wants that the budgetary allocation be “expanded from Rs 2,700 crore to at least Rs. 8,000 crores – 60 per cent of Rs 13,000 crore, the amount necessary to meet the NFSA (assuming a birth rate of 19 per thousand and an effective coverage of 90%).”
RFC’s demand comes amidst the 2015-16 National Family Health Survey (NFHS) pointing out that India’s infant mortality rate is 41 deaths per 1,000 live births. Worse, it says, “World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics show that 174 out of 100,000 Indian women die in childbirth, compared with 23 and 44 out of 100,000 in countries like China and Brazil.”
Endorsed by other civil rights groups such as National Federation of Indian Women, the National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights, Nazdeek and Sahyog, the statement comes close on the heels of RFC telling media, quoting official data, that as of today only 96,000 women out of the 53 lakh beneficiaries have been identified received maternity entitlements.

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