Universalise maternity benefit scheme, say activists

What is the news?

Government has announced that Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana(PMMVY) will be extended to cover the second child only if it is a girl.This announcement has met with criticism from activists who have demanded that it be universalised.

What is Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)?

It was launched in 2017 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD). 

It provides ₹5,000 for the birth of the first child to partially compensate a woman for loss of wages. Furthermore, it also aims to improve the nutritional well-being of the mother and the child. The amount is given in three installments upon meeting certain conditions. 

It is combined with another scheme, Janani Suraksha Yojana under which nearly ₹1,000 is given for an institutional birth so that a woman gets a total of ₹6,000.

What is being done now with the scheme?

The scheme is being expanded. Under this, the maternity benefit amount of ₹6000 is also to be provided for the second child, but only if the second is a girl child. This is being done to discourage pre-birth sex selection and promote the girl child.

Why is the scheme being criticized by the activists?

Firstly, to provide maternity benefit only to the mother of the first-born is illegal as the National Food Security Act, 2013 lays down that every pregnant woman and lactating mother are entitled to it.Then to extend it to second girl child is nothing but posturing.

Secondly, adding more conditions to the scheme will prove to be bureaucratic.This can be overcome if the scheme is universalised.

Thirdly, extending the scheme to the second girl child implies that women will be able to access the scheme only after the delivery.This means it will not have any impact on nutritional uptake of women during the course of their pregnancy.

Source: This post is based on the article “Universalise maternity benefit scheme, say activists” published in The Hindu on 8th Feb 2022.

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