The Congress has strongly condemned the BJP Government’s politics of ‘false promises’ and appropriation of credit for previous Government’s work. The Prime Minister’s announcement on Dec 31, 2016 to provide universal maternity entitlement of Rs 6,000 to every pregnant and lactating woman is one more such instance, a statement issued by K. Raju, Chairperson of the partyâ€™s SC Department said.
Universal maternity entitlements were mandated as per the National Food Security Act 2013 passed by the outgoing UPA Government. However, the incoming NDA Government neither framed any new scheme to operationalise maternity entitlements nor did it expand the existing Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana running as a pilot in 53 districts. Consequently, millions of women in the unorganised sector were being denied their legal right to maternity benefits under the NDA Government, the statement said.
“”The PM’s announcement, thus, was not the introduction of a new welfare program but the belated acknowledgement of an existing entitlement,”” Mr Raju added.
It is, thus, all the more unfortunate that even now the NDA Government has provided a mere Rs 4,000 crore annually for this scheme as against the required Rs 14,000 crore annually. With India’s birth rate at 20 per 1,000, the expected number of births per year is around 26 million (population: 130 crore). Even with 10% of births covered by the formal sector, universal maternity entitlements of Rs 6,000 per birth will cost Rs 14,000 crore per year.
However, as per the press release of the Women and Child Development Ministry, the central government’s contribution for the next three financial years is only Rs 7,348 crore, or Rs 2,449 crore per year. With a 60:40 ratio for centre/state contributions, this means a total of barely Rs 14,000 crore annually. This is a fraction of what is actually required, even assuming that only the first two births are covered by maternity entitlements, the statement said while “”strongly condemning”” the NDA Government’s dishonesty to the millions of poor women across the country and urging it to immediately allocate adequate budgetary support to ensure implementation of universal maternity entitlements.”