State schemes can cast a lifeline to this welfare plan – On Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana

News:  There is vast scope for improvement in the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY).

POSHAN Abhiyan and PMMVY are India’s initiatives to fulfill its commitment towards the Sustainable Development Goal of improving maternal health.

However, targets can be achieved only if we revisit the design and implementation of this scheme.

Read about PMMVY here: Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana 

What are the issues?

Unchanged targets: The target of the scheme has remained unchanged over the years.

The estimated eligible population of pregnant and lactating mothers in India was 128.7 lakh for 2017-18 according to the Centre for Policy Research 2019-20). The target set by the Government was 51.70 lakh beneficiaries. This is only 40% of the eligible population.

Fall in enrollment and disbursements:  In 2020-21, more than 50% of registered beneficiaries did not receive all three installments and there was a 9% drop in enrollment under the scheme.

This is according to the data provided by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) in response to a parliamentary question.

Reduced Budget allocation: Budget allocation for the PMMVY has also been reduced as it has been clubbed under SAMARTHYA along with multiple other schemes such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao.

The overall budget of SAMARTHYA is ₹2,522 crore, which is nearly equivalent to the budget of PMMVY alone in the previous financial years.

State-level schemes: States such as Odisha, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu, respectively, implemented State-specific schemes for maternity benefits.

For example, MAMATA (2011) in Odisha, the KCR Kit (2017) in Telangana, and the Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy Maternity Benefit Scheme (MRMBS) in Tamil Nadu.

States’ schemes had relatively increased coverage and higher maternity benefits.  For instance, Odisha’s MAMATA, has been offering a conditional cash transfer of ₹5,000 as maternity benefit for up to two live births for more than a decade now. It has led to better performance of this scheme, in comparison to PMMVY Scheme.

What are the suggestions for improvements in PMMVY?

Extend the maternity benefit under the PMMVY to the second live birth, similar to its predecessor, the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana. This would be more imperative for women in the unorganized sector, who are more vulnerable to economic shocks and nutrition loss for all childbirths.

Increase the maternity benefit amount: The current entitlement of ₹5,000 provided over one-year amounts to one month’s wage loss (as per the MGNREGA wage rate of ₹202).

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 mandates 12 weeks of maternity leave for women with two or more children. Thus, pregnant and lactating mothers should receive 12 weeks of wage compensation amounting to ₹15,000.

Address the implementation gaps that lead to reduced coverage. These gaps stem from a lack of awareness within targeted beneficiaries and process level challenges.

A simplification of the process can result in increased registration of beneficiaries. Further, the current registration form requires a mother and child protection (MPC) card, husband’s Aadhaar card, bank passbook, and registration form for each of the three installments. This  results  in delayed, rejected or pending applications.

Source: This post is based on the article “State schemes can cast a lifeline to this welfare plan” published in The Hindu on 3rd Jan 2022.

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