The Cabinet on Wednesday gave its nod to the maternity benefit programme, while making it clear that it will be applicable only for the first born, as reported by PTI. As per the Maternity Benefit Programme of Ministry of Women & Child Development, eligible pregnant women and lactating mothers (PW&LM) will receive Rs 6,000 in nearly all the blocks and districts of the country aimed at improving their health and nutrition status. The scheme is also aimed at arresting high maternal mortality rates.
The payment will be made in installments but is subject to fulfilment of certain health and nutrition conditions through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mode. The fine print says the benefit can only be availed by eligible pregnant women and lactating mothers except those who are in regular employment with the Central Government or State Government or Public Sector Undertaking or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law for the time being in force.
One of the important provisions in the programme also seeks to offset wage losses suffered by women due to pregnancy. This provision is beneficial for women, especially in the unorganised sector, who make up at least 90 per cent of the country’s female workforce.
The programme will prove to be very beneficial for the country whose maternal and infant mortality indicators are very dismal. As per government statistics, every third woman is undernourished and every second woman is anaemic. And an undernourished woman is more likely to give birth to a low-weight baby. In fact, according to the UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2014, India accounted for almost 17 per cent of global deaths due to pregnancy aside from childbirth-related complications (some 50,000 of 2.89 lakh such deaths worldwide).