Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement of a ₹ 6,000 cash benefit to pregnant women sounds promising, but might actually be a more modest effort than existing government schemes.
India's first nationwide scheme to provide cash assistance to pregnant women was the National Maternity Benefits Scheme (1995) which paid ₹ 500 to poor women (with Below Poverty Line cards) before their deliveries, to meet the cost of the delivery.
Since 2005, the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) pays ₹ 1,400 to poor women who deliver in a hospital, for the first two deliveries. National schemes for handloom weavers and handicraft artisans provide maternity benefits of ₹ 2,500 for the first two deliveries. The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana has, since 2005, covered hospitalisation up to ₹ 30,000 for BPL households.
More recently, the National Food Security Act (2013) mandated the payment of no less than ₹ 6,000 to all pregnant women, irrespective of their income status, but has not yet been made operational.
The Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana being run on a pilot basis since 2010 in 53 districts provides ₹ 6,000 to pregnant women conditional on them meeting some requirements including vaccinations and counselling, and is also income-neutral. The JSY payment for a safe delivery is in addition to these two proposed schemes.
In addition, several states run schemes which offer benefits in addition to central benefits, research by Vanita Leah Falcao, Dipa Sinha and other published in the Economic and Policital Weekly in 2015 shows.
Tamil Nadu stands far ahead of all other states; the state's Dr. Muthulakshmi Maternity Assistance Scheme, running since 1987, gives BPL women who deliver in public health centres ₹ 12,000 each.
Maharashtra's Navsanjivani Yojana and Matrutrva Anudan Yojana have been providing health services and assistance to pregnant tribal women since 1995-6.
Gujarat's Chiranjeevi Yojana has covered pregnant women's delivery costs since 2005 and Madhya Pradesh's Mukhyamantri Mazdoor Suraksha Yojana since 2007 gives pregnant labourers six weeks' wages.
Kerala's fisheries board provides cash assistance to fishermen's wives.
Odisha's Mamata scheme since 2011 gives pregnant women ₹ 5,000 per delivery.
Chhattisgarh gives women Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Scheme workers one months' wages at the time of delivery.
(This story has been revised; the cash benefit under the IGMSY is Rs 6,000 and not Rs 4,000)
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