Govt defends restricting maternity benefits to first child

SansadTV Bureau
File Photo: Krishna Raj, MoS, Women & Child Development in Rajya Sabha.

File Photo: Krishna Raj, MoS, Women & Child Development in Rajya Sabha.

Seeking to explain the move to restrict the incentives under the Maternity Benefit Programme (MBP) to the firstborn, the government today said the first pregnancy “exposes a mother to new challenges”.

The government also said it has prepared the draft guidelines on MBP, which promises Rs 6,000 to pregnant and lactating mothers.

The scheme was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a televised address on the new year eve last year, declaring pan-India expansion of the existing Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana, which was being implemented in 56 districts on a pilot-basis from 2010.

The scheme, however, halved the number of beneficiaries by restricting the benefits to firstborns, as against ‘first two live births’ applicable earlier.

“The first pregnancy of a woman exposes her to new kind of challenges and stress factors. Hence, the scheme provides support to the mother for safe delivery and immunisation of her first living child,” Minister of State for Women and Child Development Krishna Raj said in response to a question in the Rajya Sabha.

Pregnant women and lactating mothers are eligible to receive a cash benefit of Rs 5,000 in three instalments through Direct Benefit Transfer from the women and child development ministry.

The remaining cash incentive will be given after institutional delivery so that on an average a woman gets Rs 6,000.

PTI had earlier reported that reduced allocation of funds of Rs 2,700 crore for the scheme in the Union Budget 2017-2018 might lead to reduction in the number of beneficiaries.

A government committee had earlier said an estimated Rs 14,512 cr was required for the scheme.