“Maternity scheme reaches only one-third of beneficiaries”, screamed a headline in The Hindu today. One-third = 33% in normal parlance. And right in the middle of that story, The Hindu puts a graph. The graph tells us “Only about 61% of mothers enrolled received their total entitlement of INR 6000”.
It is therefore quite natural for one to get curious to understand if the headline is dubious or the graph is. So I read the whole story, but I was further confused. Because the report uses many numbers (perhaps to confuse the reader). For example, they write that the “scheme failed to reach at least 49% of all mothers who would have delivered their first child”, and therefore “the scheme was able to benefit only 31% of its intended beneficiaries”.
Enter Jean Dreze, the famed member of Sonia Gandhi’s NAC, to help clear this confusion. The Hindu published an op-ed by Jean Dreze today itself– “The mother of non-issues”.
This op-ed article expands vastly on the study, graph and dubious headline of the earlier article. Let me summarize the numbers presented in both articles so that we get clarity on the dubious headlines.
- Jean Dreze estimates that the annual number of births in India is = 270 lakhs (2.7 crores)
- Jean Dreze then tells us that a “little less than half would be first births.”
- The report tells us that “a little less than half” = 123 lakhs (1.2 crores) first births.
- Both Jean Dreze’s op-ed and the article tell us that the Maternity scheme, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, is intended to benefit all the 1.2 crore mothers!
- And in this 1.2 crores, the government was only able to reach a paltry 60 lakh mothers.
- Voila, the scheme has reached only 60 lakh mother (50%). Full instalments paid to only 38 lakhs (31%).
It didn’t occur to both the eminences writing the articles and the editors editing the articles that all the 1.2 crore mothers in the country would not be eligible for the scheme? I wonder why John Dreze and his ilk want the government of India to give Rs. 6000/- to mothers who can afford and get good medical care?
Without even reading through the central government notification, I could easily tell that this scheme will be applicable to poor families only. A cursory reading of the guidelines of the ministry already tells us that both state and central government employees aren’t eligible for this scheme. In the two years that this scheme was implemented, it has reached 80 lakh mothers already!
The PMMVY scheme provides assistance of INR 2000 in three instalments. The scheme is primarily aimed at “Providing partial compensation for the wage loss in terms of cash incentive s so that the woman can take adequate rest before and after delivery of the first living child”. So in case, the baby is stillborn after the mother receives the first instalment, she is still eligible for the second and third instalment the next time she gets pregnant.
With all this information at hand, the truth is this:
- More than 90% of the mothers who enrolled for this scheme have received at least 1 instalment so far.
- More than 60% of the mothers who enrolled for this scheme have received *all three*installments so far.
- The Hindu provided a platform to dubious number extrapolators only to show the Narendra Modi government in a bad light.
These dubious extrapolators were called “researchers” and “development economists” by The Hindu. These “researchers don’t stop here. We are told by them that “Given the stipulated conditions, the scheme brings under its ambit 23% of all births and pays full benefits to a mere 14% of all births”.
Now, it is but natural for you to think if INR 6000/- is enough support. Of course not. That’s why we have “Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan” which provides “timely and quality antenatal care, free of cost, universally to all pregnant women on the 9th of every month.” Free of cost. That’s why we have free health screening camps at Anganwadi centres twice a year. That’s why we have Anganwadi centres in the first place too! We also have a “Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme” for working mothers!
The PMMVY scheme, that has been central to these two articles today, is solely aimed at providing financial assistance for firstborns only. The scheme, as intended, is reaching out to the beneficiaries. Jean Dreze complains about having to submit Aadhar details –“Aside from filling a long-form for each instalment, women have to submit a series of documents” He conveniently forgets that the linking of Aadhar has helped in the elimination of corruption at the middle-men levels! It is really amusing to see this ilk often complaining about the need to link Aadhar as the rightful means for beneficiaries to get their money!
While Jean Dreze is upset that this amount still isn’t in line with what he proposed in the Food Security Act, I love the ending paragraph of his op-ed though. He tells us that Odisha government’s scheme (Mamata) is awesome because – “88% of those eligible for Mamata benefits had applied, and 75% had received at least one of the two instalments.” If it’s awesome that Odisha could reach 75%, what adjective should we use for Government of India, which has reached >90% of the intended beneficiaries?.