One in five needy mothers gets govt aid for food

Representative image

Only one in five mothers in rural India gets a government grant of Rs 5,000 to take care of her daily food requirement during the pregnancy and nursing periods, suggests a new survey.

Carried out by economists Jean Dreze and Reetika Khera along with their students, the survey is based on a random sample of 706 pregnant women and nursing mothers (who gave birth to a child in the last six months) from Chhattishgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

The women were to receive the money under the Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana to compensate for the wage loss as well to take care of the food and nutrition needs. The money is to be transferred to their bank accounts in instalments.

Only 17% of nursing mothers get up to the second instalment while the first instalment is received by 39% mothers. The numbers are worse for pregnant women (15% get the first instalment) who are to receive the money in the third trimester.

The study, whose results were released at a press conference here on Monday, shows that childbirth is a major economic contingency for many women in rural India who have to spend at least Rs 6,400 for the delivery.

Nearly 30% of women borrow or sell assets to meet the expenses of the last delivery. To make matters worse, the family earnings often go down in those days because of the reduced workability of the women.

In the absence of government support and lack of awareness, 47% of nursing women and 49% of pregnant women were eating less. “The biggest finding is that half of the women before and after childbirth are eating less,” said Khera, an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

According to the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, more than 21 lakh women were enrolled for the programme out of which nearly 10 lakh were not paid. Both enrollment and payment jumped to 83 lakh between April 1, 2018, and July 31, 2019, but even then, close to 3 lakh women did not receive any payment by the government's own account.

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