Increased Maternity Benefits for Women in Informal Sector

Increased Maternity Benefits for Women in Informal Sector

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Mayurdhar Devolla started this petition to Smt. Smriti Irani and

For the 260 lakh women who deliver a child each year in India, there is uncertainty over how they would cope with the wage loss, nutritional requirements and health needs during and after pregnancy. UNICEF has estimated that amid the pandemic, India had 20 million children being born which means increased risk added to their already existing challenges. 

The most recent is the NFHS-5 which records the data for 22 states/UTs and has come to a halt owing to  the pandemic. The findings show that Maternal and child malnutrition is on the high.

a. Child stunting(height for age) has increased in 13 states, child wasting(weight for height) has increased in over 12 states,

b. number of underweight children has increased in 16 states and children who are overweight has increased in 20 states(all four indicators refer to children between the ages of 0-5 yrs).

c. There is a drastic increase in about 16 states/UTs  in the number of pregnant women who are anaemic. 

As we all know, The Government of India, through the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), provides a conditional cash transfer of INR 5,000 in three installments to pregnant and lactating women, for their first live birth. The stated objective of PMMVY is that the cash incentive provided would lead to improved health-seeking behaviour, as the cash benefit is paid out only to those women who complete antenatal check-ups, opt for an institutional delivery, and key immunisation.

PMMVY caters to a majority of the women (working & non-working) population as over 95 percent of working women in India are employed in the unorganised sector. But budgetary allocation for this scheme has only seen a downfall and the worst budget cut being for the year 2020-21 where revised estimates for PMMVY showed a 50% cut in budgetary allocation for the scheme

The scheme that caters to a majority of women in India faces several issues that need to be scrutinised.

1. The fact that the PMMVY covers only the first live birth goes against the Constitution of India, along with violating clauses within its parent act—the NFSA.

2. Document related challenges are the primary reasons for non-beneficiaries who are aware of the schemes and yet cant avail the benefits. Even among the beneficiaries correction queues is a challenge to ensure that benefits are received. 

3. Unfortunately, most women continue to work during and post pregnancy since they can not afford to lose wages and additionally women end up spending out of pocket for expenses related to pregnancy. The payment of INR 5,000 provided over one year under PMMVY as compensation for wage loss, amounts to merely one month’s wages (calculated based on the daily wage rate of INR 202 that is paid under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act or MGNREGA).

What we propose:

a. At least 12 weeks of wage compensation, which is already being done under a few state-level schemes, as well as under schemes like Board of Construction Workers (BoCW) where an entitlement of rs. 30,000 is provided for first two live births, should be adopted.

b. Removing the need to submit husbands aadhar card and streamlining the need to submit documents for each form would greatly increase the ability of women to avail the benefits of this scheme.

c. Maternity benefits given under PMMVY must be extended to cover second live birth just as in Board of Construction Workers where two live births are covered for. Few state like Telangana , Tamil Nadu(through State schemes) and some districts of Rajasthan have this extended to second live birth as well 

d. Capacity building sessions for frontline staff about the scheme and targeted communication campaign in the community about subjects directly related to the scheme as well as information and education around health, nutrition, menstrual health and family planning has to be provided on a regular basis to achieve the objective of behaviour change among pregnant women. 



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