One in three payments for maternity benefit scheme credited to wrong account

Sometimes, the money is untraceable by beneficiaries and field functionaries, says NITI Aayog report

February 23, 2020 01:01 am | Updated 01:01 am IST - NEW DELHI

Money trail: Under the PMMVY, pregnant women and lactating mothers receive ₹5,000 for their first child.

Money trail: Under the PMMVY, pregnant women and lactating mothers receive ₹5,000 for their first child.

One in three Aadhaar-based payments for the Centre’s maternity benefit scheme, or Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), was credited to a wrong bank account, according to a progress report on Poshan Abhiyaan (Nutrition Mission) released by the NITI Aayog on Saturday.

“A substantial number of payments (28% of all Aadhaar-based payments, of 31.29 lakh) are going to different bank accounts than what had been provided by the beneficiaries. Sometimes these are even untraceable by beneficiaries and field functionaries. It is a prime cause for dissatisfaction among beneficiaries, which needs to be addressed on an urgent basis,” the report says about the implementation of the scheme on the basis of the data collected until March 31, 2019. 66% of the direct benefit transfers were based on Aadhaar.

The report says a telephone survey of 5,525 beneficiaries, conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, revealed that only 60% were aware of the receipt of the benefits and the bank accounts to which the money was transferred. Under the PMMVY, pregnant women and lactating mothers receive ₹5,000 for their first child in three instalments. Each tranche is released upon the beneficiaries meeting some conditions. The money is meant to compensate women for loss of wages, and is aimed at ensuring a healthy nutritional development of the newborn.

The NITI Aayog has called for “simplification in documentation and operational rules” to avoid delays. It has proposed to “rationalise” the mandatory waiting period of 180 days before the second instalment is released as well as the compulsory birth certificate for the release of the third instalment. It calls for the training of auxiliary midwives who fill up the mother-child protection card, which is among the documents needed to get the benefit, and data entry operators so that application details are entered online and payments and complaints are processed on time.

A report in The Hindu, ‘The long wait for maternity benefits: How red tape drowned a central scheme in Gujrat’s Dahod district’ (February 8), had highlighted how some beneficiaries had to wait for two years to receive the benefit under the scheme and how a claimant’s application was pending for over a year because it had not been processed by the data entry operator at the taluk level since the computer at the office had not been repaired for months. The report highlighted the problems faced by beneficiaries in filling up the 32-page application form and providing nine identity documents.

How States scored

This is the second report released by the government on the implementation of Poshan Abhiyaan. It scores the States and Union Territories to measure their readiness to execute the programme across four themes: governance and institutional mechanism; strategy and planning; service delivery and capacities; and programme activities and intervention coverage. The States were divided into large and small categories for a better comparison.

Among the 19 large States, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh scored the top three ranks, followed by Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. All these States had an implementation score of over 70%. Karnataka, Assam and Kerala were at the bottom, with a score below 55%.

Among the eight small States, Mizoram and Sikkim scored above 75%. Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Manipur and Goa were at the bottom, with scores below 60%. However, all small States had a score above 55%, displaying a fairly good level of readiness and implementation.

Four of the seven Union Territories had a score of over 70%. Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Chandigarh, and Daman and Diu scored above 75% and were ranked among the top three Union Territories. Delhi, and Lakshadweep were at the bottom, with scores below 50%.

The report calls for improving funds utilisation, which was at 20% in large States, 42% in small States and 5% in Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Kerala, Delhi and Goa. It also highlights the need to address gaps in growth- monitoring devices at anganwadis, pointing out that only 27.6% anganwadi workers were given smartphones to record data and only 35% had devices like weighing scales to measure important nutritional parameters. “It is imperative to ensure that the basic equipment required to conduct growth monitoring is procured and distributed urgently,” the report says.

The third main recommendation is on filling of vacancies in the supervisory cadre of Lady Supervisors Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) and District Programme Officer (DPO). According to the report, at the national level, the vacancy rates are in the range of 25% for the CDPO.

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