The city has witnessed a drop of 82.6 per cent in the financial year 2013-2014 in the number of women beneficiaries under the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), a scheme under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) aimed at reducing maternal and neonatal mortality rate by “promoting institutional delivery” among poor pregnant women.
While 36,000 such women were provided monetary assistance in 2012-2013, only 6,245 received the assistance in 2013-2014, according to data from the BMC’s health department.
The JSY was launched in April 2005 by modifying the National Maternity Benefit Scheme (NMBS). According to the scheme, a woman below-poverty line (BPL) is entitled to a sum of Rs 600 for healthcare post-delivery.
“However, since January 2013, the central government has made it compulsory for civic authorities to issue a cheque in the name of the beneficiary instead of paying them in cash. Additionally, the woman must have an Aadhar card number linked with her bank account,” said Dr Padmaja Keskar, deputy executive health officer at the BMC.
With very few poor women having bank accounts, the number of beneficiaries saw a drastic drop this year. “Since several women did not have an Aadhar card, the government dropped that eligibility criteria in July 2013. It, however, continued to follow the policy of issuing cheques for payment to avoid misuse of funds,” Keskar added.
Twenty-five-year-old Reshma Sukhdare, who delivered a boy in June last year, said, “The hospital in which I was admitted had promised to give me money under Janani scheme. I even had a bank account in my name. But since I did not have Aadhar card, they later refused to give me the amount.” She said that despite several attempts to ask for cash or cheque, she could not receive the JSY assistance.
Twenty-three-year old Ratna, who also delivered a child in 2013, said, “The scheme is only on paper. Several slum-dwellers like me do not have the luxury of opening a bank account since it serves no purpose. Just to receive the JSY fund of Rs 600, we have to go through formalities and pay at least Rs 1,000 to open a bank account.”
However, Dr Almeida Fernandes, who runs a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working for on improving health of pregnant woman, said the step was necessary to check misuse of funds. “The idea of opening a bank account is good. We tried to help several women open their accounts. But many of them do not have an address proof, which is mandatory for opening an account. There is a need to change rules for poor people to avail of government schemes,” said Fernandes.
Dr Satish Pawar, director of Directorate of Health Services (DHS), said the state government had already sent a request for the same to the central government thrice so far.
“We asked the government to allow us to use bearer cheques as it can be encashed by the mothers. But the central government did not agree as rules cannot be changed for one particular state.”
According to Pawar, there has been a statewide decline in the total number of beneficiaries, but Mumbai has been worst hit.