The Jaccha-Baccha survey (JABS), of pregnant and nursing women in rural India by student volunteers, coordinated by economists Jean Dreze, Reetika Khera and Anmol Somanchi, in June 2019 and released today found that expectant mothers in six states where the survey was held—Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh—were underweight (as low as 40 kg) even by the end of their pregnancy. One of the key findings of the JABS Survey was that the much-touted Pradhan Mantri Mathru Vandana Yojna (PMMVY) was restricting the maternity benefits to just one child per woman. Shockingly, the government’s own data shows that less than a fourth of eligible expectant women have received the benefits.
On December 31, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that women would be entitled to maternity benefits of Rs 6000 each after delivery. A budget allocation of Rs 2,700 crore was made in Union budget 2017-18 for the purpose. However, to cover 90 percent of all deliveries, on an assumption of a birth rate of 20 per thousand, Rs 15,000 crore would be necessary. Moreover, while drafting rules for the distribution of this maternity benefit, the Centre restricted it to just the “first live birth” and reduced the amount to Rs 5000.
Under the National Food Security Act 2013, all women are entitled to a maternity benefit of Rs 6000 for the birth of a child, unless they avail benefits as organized sector employees. The PMMVY was introduced in 2017 to implement this provision of the 2013 Act. In violation of the NFSA Act, the PMMVY restricted the benefit to just one child per woman.