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Rishi Sankhla

IWB Blogger

Union Budget 2018 Might Not Hold Any Good News For Expecting Mothers

  • IWB Post
  •  January 30, 2018

The Union Budget 2018 is most likely to be presented on February 1 by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. This is the last budget to be presented by the Modi government ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Therefore, it holds more importance and is likely to be libertarian, focusing more on sections like women and farmers.

However, from the opening speech of President Ram Nath Kovind during the inauguration of Budget Session, it is being speculated that maternity schemes are unlikely to get any boost. Around 60 top economists of the country had written to Finance Minister in December 2017, demanding a raise in the budget set aside for maternity schemes.

Initially, an amount of Rs 2,700 crore was finalised for the programme in the 2017 budget. However, the figure dropped down to Rs 2,500 crore later. According to the economists demanding a raise, “amount of Rs 2,700 crore set aside by the Centre was a third of what is required under National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, which entitles all pregnant women and lactating mothers to at least Rs 6,000, and not just mothers of first-borns.”

As per the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), the central government promises an amount of Rs 6000 to pregnant and lactating mothers for the birth of their first child. according to a report of Hindustan Times, NITI Aayog had also opposed the criteria of PMMVY, underlining that the benefits should be made available for all mothers and not just for a firstborn child.

Convenor of the Right to Food campaign Dipa Sinha, explaining the rollout of the scheme in its first fiscal year, says that until January 15, 2018, only 96,460 women received the money. This is less than 2% of the total 51.6 lakh women the government seeks to benefit annually. “By the government’s own truncated estimate, 52 lakh women were to benefit from the scheme in the current financial year. But since only a fraction of them have received the cash transfer, it means the government needs to now reach out to double the annual estimate in the next financial year and, therefore, should have at least sought twice the funds allocated last year,” Sinha says.

She further underlined that the scheme is also violating the NFSA, under which all pregnant and lactating mothers, except government employees, are entitled to a sum of at least Rs 6,000. She also pointed out the conditions applied to the scheme. The Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana for pregnant women and lactating mothers came into effect from  January 1, 2017. As per the conditions of the scheme, a woman who is expecting for the first time would receive an amount of Rs 5000 in three instalments, that too after meeting different requirements. The remaining Rs 1000 would be given to her under Janani Suraksha Yojana after institutional delivery.

Dipa Sinha alleged that by adding conditions like institutional delivery to claim the remaining 1000 rupees, the government is denying mothers their right. The ministry of women and child development has not sought an increase for the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana. It has asked for Rs 2,500 crore for the maternity benefit scheme, the same as in last year’s budget.

H/T: Hindustan Times

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