The number of beneficiaries who enrolled for the maternity benefit programme, called Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), exceeded the government's target of 51.7 lakh per year in each of the last three years, Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani told Parliament on Wednesday.
"The total number of beneficiaries enrolled during each of the last three financial years under the PMMVY is more than the indicative target," the Minister said in the Rajya Sabha in response to a question from Trinamool Congress member Sushmita Dev.
The reply did not provide the exact number of enrollments.
The PMMVY scheme was estimated to cover 51.70 lakh beneficiaries annually, Ms. Irani said, adding that it was only an "indicative" target.
The scheme was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a televised address to the nation on December 31, 2016. It provides a benefit of ₹5,000 in three instalments to a woman for her first living child upon meeting certain conditions. This is meant as partial compensation for loss of wage during her pregnancy so that she can get proper nutrition. The scheme is only for those women who are not employed by the Central or State governments or a Public Sector Undertaking and don't receive similar benefits under any law. It is clubbed with the Janani Suraksha Yojana scheme which provides nearly ₹1,000 for institutional births so that altogether mothers get ₹6,000 in maternity benefit.
In response to a question on whether the government had carried out an assessment to know the total number of beneficiaries of the scheme, the Minister said that as per the Sample Registration System Statistical Report (SRS) 2018, the percentage of first order births in India was 49.5 of the total live births.
According to the Health Ministry's Health Management Information System, total live births in 2019-2020 were at 2.71 crore and, therefore, first order births were at 1.34 crore. The scheme has been criticised for under-funding and failing to cater to all targeted beneficiaries. Activists also call the scheme illegal as it violates the National Food Security Act, 2013 under which all mothers, and not just mothers of the first living child, should get a maternity benefit of ₹6,000.
No commensurate increase
Though last week Ms. Irani said the benefit would be extended for the birth of the second child when the second child is a girl, the Budget for financial year 2022-2023 has not seen a commensurate increase.
The allocation for the scheme in 2019-2020 was ₹2,522 crore. In 2020-2021, the scheme was clubbed with several other programmes under the Samarthya scheme and altogether ₹2,500 crore was allocated. For financial year 2022-2023, the combined allocation for the Samarthya scheme is at ₹2,622 crore.
According to an analysis by the Centre for Policy Research's Accountability Initiative and IFPRI, the PMMVY scheme in 2019-2020 required a budget of ₹6,636 crore to cover all targeted beneficiaries.