The Union cabinet on Wednesday decided to limit the benefits of a maternity assistance scheme to only the first live birth of a mother, instead of the existing practice of giving it for two live births. Under the ongoing Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana, which since October 2010 has run as a pilot in 53 districts, every pregnant and lactating woman above the age of 19 years is given Rs 6,000 each for two live births.
The change, which comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s New Year’s Eve promise of universalising the maternity benefit scheme, would almost halve the number of beneficiaries if the scheme is limited to the first child. The money would be granted to the woman provided she chose institutional delivery and vaccinated the child.
As required under the National Food Security Act, 2013, in a delayed move, the cabinet extended the scheme to all districts. The Indian Express had in February reported how the meagre budget allocation of Rs 2,700 crore for the scheme, meant to bring down the maternal mortality rate, was a precursor to the government’s plan to cover one live birth, instead of two. A report of the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (2012-13) had drawn up a way higher annual estimate — of Rs 14,512 crore per year — for universalising the scheme.
The Maternity Benefit Programme is meant to compensate women for their pregnancy related wage loss and ensure adequate nutrition for good maternal and child health. The government’s official statement said the cabinet has given “post-facto sanction” for implementing the scheme from January 2017 to March 2020. The estimated cost of all three years together is Rs 12,661crore. Of this, the Centre’s share is Rs 7,932 which would be disbursed as a conditional cash transfer scheme by direct benefit transfer mode.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines