Continuing with his theme of addressing gender inequality, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley may hike allocation for the Ministry of Women and Child Development by 20 per cent with an emphasis on universalising the maternity benefit scheme.
Jaitley may in his third Union Budget to be presented on February 1 seek to reflect government’s priority on addressing critical issues faced by women, such as violence, through budgetary priorities and higher allocation, officials said. In particular, the focus would be to universalise maternity benefit scheme that provides cash support to pregnant and lactating women belonging to BPL families. Besides, they would be given free health check ups and nutrition advice.
Currently, maternity benefits are extended to women in high burden districts, based on backwardness of the place and lack of basic facilities.
While raising the funds available to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Jaitley may specifically provide for higher allocation for implementation of the maternity benefit scheme.
“The new scheme will be for all BPL families across the country,” officials added.
The Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY), a maternity benefit programme introduced in 2010, provides for conditional cash transfer scheme for pregnant and lactating women of 19 years of age or above for first two live births.
The scheme provides a partial wage compensation to women for wage-loss during childbirth and childcare and to provide conditions for safe delivery and good nutrition and feeding practices.
The budget for the IGMSY was almost doubled from Rs 230 crore to Rs 400 crore. It may further be hiked in the budget for 2017-18.
In 2013, cash incentives provided under the scheme were increased from Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000 to comply with the minimum maternity entitlement provision of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.
Given the need for maternity entitlements to be universal, the current fund allocation is considered insufficient for implementing the scheme in all districts. The scheme is currently being implemented in 200 pilot districts.