That India’s maternal mortality rate is a matter of grave concern is undisputed. Determining how many schemes India needs to tackle the problem may be less simple.
According to World Bank data, India’s maternal mortality rate was 174 per 100,000 live births in 2015. The health ministry recently launched its third programme to bring down this rate, just 13 days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi mooted the idea at a rally.
Addressing a rally in Saharanpur last month, Modi had said: “Can my doctor friends do one thing? On the 9th of every month, if any poor pregnant women comes to them, they should give her free treatment. Our poor mothers sometimes die during childbirth. If our doctors give 12 days in 12 months to the cause — the 9th of every month — no doctor will suffer a major loss. If people can give up gas subsidy, doctors can also give 12 days to poor mothers.”
The ministry immediately decided to make it a new programme for antenatal care. The scheme, officials said, was kicked off at a record pace to meet the date mentioned by the PM.
Thus, on June 9, the ministry organised free health check-ups for pregnant women in 14 states under the Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritwa Yojana (PMSMY), which will run parallel to the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) and Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK).
The PMSMY is aimed at providing ante-natal care packages to around 3 crore pregnant women on the ninth of every month by a specialist. Private practitioners will be roped in where enough doctors are not available in the government sector.
Launched in 2011, the JSSK entitles pregnant women to free drugs, diagnostics, delivery, free transport home and other measures, all aimed at increasing the number of institutional deliveries. Sick newborns, too, are entitled to free treatment and drugs for the first month of their lives.
According to the National Health Portal, “Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) is a safe motherhood intervention under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) being implemented with the objective of reducing maternal and neo-natal mortality by promoting institutional delivery among the poor pregnant women. The Yojana, launched on 12th April 2005, by the Hon’ble Prime Minister, is being implemented in all states and UTs with special focus on low performing states.”
A senior official in the health ministry said: “The PMSMY was launched after the PM’s speech at Saharanpur. There is no overlap (with other schemes). This one focuses only on ante-natal care once every month. On June 9, 14 states already did it. The cost will not be an issue… It will help in early detection and care of high-risk pregnancies.”
The first phase of PMSMY was implemented in Bihar, Chattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.