New Delhi, Sep 13 : Not a rupee of government money has been spent on pregnant and lactating women enrolled under the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's much-hyped maternity benefit scheme till August 2018 in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), which happens to have India's highest fertility rate, an RTI query has revealed.
This, despite the fact that UP got the largest sanctioned amount of over Rs 336 crore from a total of Rs 2,049 crore in 2017-18 approved by the central government for 29 states and seven Union Territories, the query filed by IANS under the Right To Information (RTI) revealed.
According to the reply by the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry, only 184 women have enrolled in UP for the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) since its inception in January 2017 up to August 2018 -- out of 44 lakh women enrolled across the country in 717 districts.
While the number of beneficiaries stand at more than 34 lakh across the country, not a single woman in Uttar Pradesh has received payment under the maternity scheme, the RTI reply showed.
According to a NITI Aayog report of 2016, Uttar Pradesh has the second highest fertility rate (children per woman) of 3.1 after Bihar which has a fertility rate of 3.3.
The ideal fertility rate as mentioned by the central government is 2.4.
The Health Ministry's data released in July this year on Total Fertility Rate (TFR) further elaborates that 11 districts like Bahraich, Sitapur, Hardoi, Shahjahanpur, Banda, Gonda, Etah, Balrampur, among others, have a fertility rate of 4.
According to the fact sheet, 19 districts in UP have a TFR between 3.5 and 4, while 28 have a TFR of between 3 and 3.5.
The RTI further revealed that apart from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab has low enrollment of only 7 women while the beneficiaries are a mere 5.
The state was allocated Rs 46.49 crore.
West Bengal has the highest number of women enrolled in the scheme -- 6.8 lakh -- of which more than 5 lakh lactating and first time mothers have benefited.
The centre sanctioned Rs 102 crore for the state.
According to the WCD Ministry, the cost-sharing ratio for the maternity benefit programme between the centre and states and those UTs with a legislature is 60:40.
The centre shares 90 per cent of the programme for the northeastern and Himalayan states and provides the full amount for UTs without legislature.
However, as per the government, Aadhaar is mandatory for women who wants to get enrolled for the maternity scheme.
Also, states and UTs have been asked to maintain an Escrow Account for the scheme to pay out, thus avoiding parking of the funds with them.
Currently, the scheme is being implemented through the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) platform under the WCD or Social welfare state departments, barring a few states like Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, where it is looked after by the health department.
The RTI reply noted that in Tamil Nadu, there has not been a single enrolment under the PMMVY scheme and therefore there are no beneficiaries as the state operates a similar maternity benefit scheme.
However, the Centre released more than Rs 120 crore to the state in 2017-18.
Initially launched as the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) in 2010 under the UPA-II government, the scheme was renamed Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) after Modi announced its pan-India implementation in all districts of the country during a New Year's Eve speech on December 31, 2016.
Under the scheme, eligible beneficiaries get Rs 5,000 after delivery of a child in an institution like a hospital and the remaining cash incentive of Rs 1,000 is given as maternity benefit under the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) for a Rs 6,000.
Applicable to women aged above 19 for the first birth, the scheme provides partial compensation to women for the wage-loss during birth and child care and provides conditions for safe delivery and good nutrition and feeding practices, according to the information availableon the scheme.
(Somrita Ghosh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)