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‘Maternity scheme reaches only one-third of beneficiaries’

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Researchers assert that extrapolation of RTI data show 31% of eligible mothers got benefits.

A vital programme to support lactating mothers and pregnant women by compensating them for loss of wages during their pregnancy has been able to reach less than a third of the eligible beneficiaries, researchers who extrapolated from data obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act said.

Almost 61% of beneficiaries registered under the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) between April 2018 and July 2019 (38.3 lakh out of the total 62.8 lakh enrolled) received the full amount of ₹6,000 promised under the scheme, according to an RTI reply. However, the researchers, who are development economists, assert that since the scheme failed to reach at least 49% of all mothers who would have delivered their first child (an estimated total of 123 lakh for 2017 according to the researchers), the scheme was able to benefit only 31% of its intended beneficiaries.

The PMMVY is targeted only at women delivering their first child. A cash amount of ₹6,000 is transferred to the bank account of the beneficiary in three instalments upon meeting certain conditions including early registration of pregnancy, having at least one ante-natal check-up and registration of child birth.

The scheme reached only half of the mothers who had their first child between April 2018 and July 2019. Moreover, only 31% of all eligible mothers received their total entitlement of Rs 6,000

ParameterTotal (in lakhs), %
Estimated no. of births270.5
Estimated no. of first borns123
Enrolled under PMMVY, % of total first borns62.8, 51.1%
Received at least one instalment of total three60.4, 49.1%
Received total entitlement of 6,00038.3,31.1%

 

Based on a response from MoWCD to RTI query by Jean Dreze, received in August 2019

Given the stipulated conditions, the scheme brings under its ambit 23% of all births and pays full benefits to a mere 14% of all births, which was at 270.5 lakh for 2017. The meagre reach calculated is also an overestimate, asserts Ritika Khera, Assistant Professor, IIM Ahmedabad. The actual number of beneficiaries would have been higher for 2018-2019, she contends, as the figure increases from one year to the next.

The data extrapolated from the RTI reply is also consistent with a survey coordinated by three development economists Jean Dreze, Anmol Somanchi and Ms. Khera. The survey was conducted to assess the implementation of the scheme. The survey team covered a district each in six States — Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha — in 2019 to interview women and inspect anganwadis. A total of 706 women were interviewed, including 342 pregnant and 364 lactating women.

Inadequate awareness

The study found that only 50% of pregnant women and 57% of nursing women surveyed were eligible for the scheme. It also throws light on the need for higher awareness among the pool of beneficiaries — only 66% of pregnant women and 69% of nursing women knew about the scheme. Only 8% of pregnant women and 23% of nursing mothers received some benefits.

Several factors impeded proper implementation of the programme that aims to fight malnutrition among children. These include an application form of about 23 pages, a slew of documents such as mother-child protection card, Aadhaar card, husband’s Aadhaar card and bank passbook aside from linking their bank accounts with Aadhaar.

The requirement to produce the husband’s Aadhaar card results in excluding women who may be living with men they are not married to, single mothers and those who may be staying at their natal home. Women must also have the address of their marital home on their Aadhaar card, which often results in newly weds being either left out or forced to go from door-to-door when pregnant and needing rest and care.

Odisha, which decided to not implement PMMVY because it has its own State-sponsored scheme called ‘Mamata’ that includes two births, has a few lessons to offer through its near universal coverage. According to the survey, 95% of pregnant women and 89% of nursing mothers had been enrolled, the level of awareness was more than 90% among the two categories of women. However, there were long delays in transferring the cash amount to the beneficiaries resulting in only 35% of all women who were pregnant and 67% of all nursing women receiving some benefits.

The survey findings also highlight the need to pay greater attention to the special needs of pregnancy — good food, extra rest and health care. Only 22% of the nursing women surveyed reported that they had been eating more than usual during their pregnancy and the average weight gain was barely 7kg when it should be at least 13-18kg. Almost all the respondents had done household work regularly during their last pregnancy — 21% of nursing women said that they had no one to help them with domestic chores and 63% said that they had been working right until the day of delivery.

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Printable version | Dec 11, 2019 7:18:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/maternity-scheme-reaches-only-one-third-of-beneficiaries/article30009783.ece

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