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No decision on limiting maternity benefits to first child, says Government

In his address to the nation on December 31, Modi had announced pan-India expansion of the Maternity Benefit Programme (MBP) which has been in operation in 56 districts on a pilot basis since 2010.

The government today said no decision has been taken on limiting to the first child only the Maternity Benefit Programme (MBP) Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in his televised address on the new year’s eve. “The guidelines for pan-India implementation of Maternity Benefit Programme are being drafted,” Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi told the Rajya Sabha.

In his address to the nation on December 31, Modi had announced pan-India expansion of the Maternity Benefit Programme (MBP) which has been in operation in 56 districts on a pilot basis since 2010.

Under the scheme, pregnant and lactating mothers are provided a cash incentive of Rs 6,000 upon fulfilling several preconditions. They are eligible for the benefits only for “first two live births”.

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The Union Budget 2017-2018 allocated Rs 2,700 crore to the scheme, which is only 20 to 30 per cent of various estimates arrived at by the government.

A statement issued by the WCD ministry days after Modi’s speech pegged the total expenditure for implementation of the MBP at Rs 12,661 crore.

Out of this, the Centre’s share was Rs 7,932 crore. Thus, the amount (Rs 2,700 crore) allocated to the programme in the Budget announcement is only a third of the government’s own estimate.

According to the Report of Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution in January, 2013, the money allocated for the programme is a fifth of the required amount.

The committee had then determined an amount of Rs 14,512 crore for implementation of MBP.

With 50:50 cost-sharing between Centre and states, the WCD ministry will have to incur an expenditure of Rs 3,000 per beneficiary.

With Rs 2,700 crore in its kitty for the scheme, the ministry is targeting 90 lakh beneficiaries, according to a senior official of the ministry.

This number is nearly half of the total 2 crore deliveries in 2016, as per WCD’s statement in Rajya Sabha yesterday.