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Universal Maternity Entitlements in India

Birth Pangs

In June 2018, a small survey of the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana in two blocks of Jharkhand—Manika in Latehar district and Khunti in Khunti district—examined the status of the scheme and the problems faced by women at the time of pregnancy and delivery, such as health expenditure, inadequate nutrition, and loss of income. The findings call for better implementation of the scheme, as well as make a case for maternity benefits to be raised to a minimum of ₹6,000 per child for all pregnancies and not just for the first living child.

On 28 July 1928, B R Ambedkar, arguing in favour of the Maternity Benefit Bill when it was introduced for the first time in the Bombay Legislative Assembly, stated:

I believe that it is in the interests of the nation that the mother ought to get a certain amount of rest during the pre-natal period and also subsequently ... the benefits contemplated by this bill ought to be given by this Legislature to the poor women who toil in our factories in this Presidency.

Maternity entitlements, in the form of paid leave for women working in the formal sector, are recognised in most countries, including India. This is an important acknowledgement of the distinct needs of women workers, who may require rest before and after pregnancy and incur additional expenses while making decisions that have long-term consequences for the health of the mother and child. However, only 6.5% of the Indian workforce is employed in the formal sector, with only 5.9% of the female workforce engaged in this sector (ILO 2018). Women in the informal sector as well as those doing unpaid work at home are not covered by formal-sector benefits.

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Updated On : 19th Nov, 2020

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