Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.
Social Challenges in Housing Schemes
Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana was launched in 2016 to provide financial assistance for construction of pucca house for all houseless and households living in dilapidated houses. The aim of this scheme is to ensure construction of one crore environmentally safe and secure hoses by 2019.
Currently, 32% of the Indian population lives in urban areas and by 2050 more than half the population would be moving to urban areas. However, still a balance needs to be maintained and rural housing has to be kept as an important part of policy making addressing varied needs of the rural residents. The government has to ensure that the housing provided to the rural residents is in sync with the expectation of these residents.
Challenges of Urban Slums
When, as a result of the growing urbanisation, the poor from the villages are required to shift to the cities they continue to stay in the slums but this transition gives rise to various challenges. The challenges are as follows:
Health concerns in urban areas
Threats and extortion demands by real estate mafia and the corrupt government officials.
Urban slums are usually located at prime spots in the urban areas. Hence, they block revenue which the government could have earned from these locations.
Measure for facing Urbanisation
To tackle problems such as those mentioned above and gear up for the increasing pressure due to urbanisation various policy measures have been undertaken.
United Nations focuses on making cities a better place to live on through Sustainable Development Goal 11 which targets to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
The year 2016 also saw Habitat III summit in Quito, Ecuador promoting a “New Urban Agenda” of giving slum dwellers upgraded housing with basic services by 2030.
Recently, Government of India also introduced two new interest-subsidy schemes under the PMAY to make housing finance more affordable.
Why PMAY is being rejected?
Tackling urbanisation, providing low cost housing to all with the ‘Housing For All’ target for the year 2022 have been some of the central focus areas for policy by the Indian government. Irrespective of this emphasis still a significant percentage of beneficiaries are not responding positively to the scheme. This segment of the population does not avail benefits provided under the scheme. This also leads to low indicators with respect to success of government schemes and policies and social development of the country.
The reasons for such a situation are:
Lack of affordable housing finance is a limitation for which the government also introduced the above mentioned interest subsidy schemes.
Stakeholder participation at the time of policy making is very low and as a result they feel unsatisfied with the provisions in the schemes.
Inefficient subsidy targeting also leads to vacancies in the housing schemes because the subsidy fails to accurately address the problem of affordability.
The housing schemes involve relocation of the people. As a result of the relocation, they tend to get disconnected from their social ties and relations.
Among the reasons mentioned above, it is observed from studies that the feel of disconnect and loss of social connections is a major reason for the beneficiaries to reject the housing provided by the government.
The relocation under housing schemes leads to a feeling of isolation. Social relations and community provides them a sense of support and comfort for the troubled days. Those residing in slums seek and provide a lot of psychological and material support from each other which the State cannot provide.
Slum dwellers rely on each other for their borrowing needs in a regular manner. Moving to new areas also impacts their earning capacity and labour force participation.
There is a greater need to understand what the individuals moving to a new place will gain or lose and what will be there response to the shift. This is because it is mentioned as a result of studies that benefits give the best results only if the people are made to relocate at an early age. Hence, a targeted approach is very important.
Steps that can be taken to address the above issues are:
The government policies should be designed in a manner which helps the people to preserve their social networks even after relocation. The government could try to move the entire community to new areas.
The policy makers should not keep relocation central to the policy. Focus should be given to the rights of slum dwellers and ensuring their rights are addressed. Schemes and policies should try to collect data on the preferences of poor migrants so that need based approach can be followed.
More investment is needed in social capital rather than financial capital in the form of interest-rate subsidies.
The government can try to provide residences on the periphery of the cities to the poor from rural slums.
Connecting the dots
Government schemes do not only face implementation or structural challenges but are also subject to social challenges. Discuss. Suggest a strategy for overcoming social challenges in policy making and implementation.
TOPIC:General Studies 2
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
Time to sustain renewed focus on Maternal and Child care
In an unexpected twist, PM made the pregnant women of India a surprise beneficiary of post demonetisation sops, thereby taking steps towards championing the cause of maternal and child health (MCH) in India.
The PM committed his government to implement the long-promised maternity entitlement commitment in NFSA by extending Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana, a 53 district pilot to a national scheme.
Maternal Benefit Programme
Not confident precedence
In last three years, the government’s track record on delivery in maternal and child health has been poor despite a dedicated section on maternal and child health in 2016 Economic Survey as well as NFSA’s provision for maternal and child health.
Budget for nutrition flagship programme ICDS was decreased from Rs. 16,312 crore in 2013-14 to Rs. 14,000 crore in 2016-17. Even IGMSY had few resources, with allocation of Rs. 1294 crores between 2013-14 and 2016-17 and releasing only 63% of the allocated funds.
Repeated calls have been given to address the challenges pertaining to implementation deficits, but hardly have they been addressed.
However, a renewed focus on MCH is much needed with growing deficits in nutritional outcomes and high maternal and infant mortality rates in India.
India’s maternal and infant mortality indicators are very poor. Every third woman is undernourished and every second woman is anaemic. Thus, an undernourished woman would likely give birth to a low-weight baby.
Maternal mortality ratio: 174 deaths/100000 live births and Infant mortality ratio: 40 deaths/ 1000 live births
As per the UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2014, India recorded the highest number of maternal deaths in 2013 and accounted for 17% of global deaths due to pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications. In India, less than 40% of births in India are institutional deliveries.
While women employed in the formal sector are entitled to maternity benefits like paid leave by their employers for 26 weeks (under Maternity Benefit Amendment Bill of 2016), such benefits are absent for women in the unorganised sector, which employs 90% of women.
Hence, it was required that the government now universally implement Section 4 (b) of the National Food Security Act which states that every pregnant and lactating mother would be entitled to maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000.
Will MBP deliver?
MBP is a conditional cash transfer with money being given to beneficiaries in three instalments upon fulfilling conditions- antenatal checkups, institutional delivery and child vaccinations.
The cash incentive of Rs.6000 is payable to pregnant and lactating women as compensation for the wage loss so that the woman can take adequate rest before and after delivery.
The aim is to improve her health and nutrition during the period of pregnancy and lactation and to breastfeed the child during the first six months of the birth, which is very vital for the development of the child.
Resultantly, it is expected that it will reduce mother mortality rate, IMR, under-nutrition and its adverse effects.
Count of beneficiaries
The anticipated beneficiaries under MBP are to be 5.17 million annually. However, the government data suggests that 7.5 million women received Janani Suraksha Yojna (JSY) benefits in 2015-16 and the ICDS supplementary nutrition programme beneficiaries is estimated to be 19.33 million.
This means that existing + potential beneficiaries are higher than current calculation. In absence of clarity on 5.17 million numbers, the programme may have large exclusion errors.
This might once again lead to spending of huge finances without reaping expected outcomes.
IGMSY pilot gave important lessons in this respect. The conditionalities imposed might lead to exclusion of the truly vulnerable. This is because health services which fulfil certain conditions are not easily available in many parts of the country.
Most maternity benefits schemes are targeted on the basis of income, age and number of children showing their patriarchal values.
The findings related to repeated pregnancies suggest that women from the extremely marginalised groups are the ones who will get excluded from the scheme due to its eligibility condition, thereby deteriorating their health further in absence of counselling or information on family planning.
A study by National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights has shown that precondition such as eligibility excludes 60% of women in the 15-49 age group, most of whom are Dalits and tribals. They are the ones who have more than two children, are illiterate and devoid of financial inclusion.
Conditions such as immunization, counselling session, ANCs and PNCs have a positive impact, but cash transfer on their strict adherence excludes the beneficiaries who are not able to fulfil them.
Rapid Survey on Children, 2014 highlights that less than half of pregnant women receive more than four antenatal care assessments or receive supplementary food during pregnancy, and less than a fourth report consuming iron-folic acid tablets.
When these women are not given the cash transfer as expected, they are not encouraged for institutional deliveries. A 2016 study highlighted that fund flows to beneficiary bank accounts were slow because of complicated paperwork associated with fulfilling the conditionalities.
Conditionalities related to utilising health and nutrition services are also meaningless in the absence of a service guarantee and the difficulties in accessing these schemes in the first place, as seen in most of the villages.
Thus, the beneficiaries are more likely to be denied benefits due to government conditions rather than their own behavioural choices.
The current programme is estimated to cost the government Rs. 16,000 crore a year, compared with the current estimate of Rs. 3,165 crore and entire WCD ministry allocation in budget 2016-17 of Rs. 17,408 crore.
Also, change cannot be expected in the absence of significant changes in the incentives of health workers. While institutional deliveries have risen, partly driven by the JSY cash transfer programme, it has not resulted in a significant impact on neo-natal mortality rates.
Thus, the burden of finances may water down the intended outcomes.
Along with financial concern, it is imperative for administrative reforms to take place.
Most of the conditionalities associated with the MBP are linked to programmes and schemes run by the health ministry. But MBP shall be under Ministry of Women and Child Development.
Thus, presence of multiple ministries with different accountability systems will create roadblocks for the successful programme implementation.
Administrative rigidities such as insisting on registration at the anganwadi centres (even if the woman was registered with the health department) and not including women in their natal homes add to the barriers in access to the scheme.
The Centre failed to implement universal maternity benefits as mandated by the NFSA for a long time.
Only Tamil Nadu is prominently known to implement this scheme as ‘ Muthulakshmi Reddy Maternity Benefit Scheme’ where cash assistance of Rs. 12,000 is given in 3 instalments on conditional release and restricted for first two deliveries only.
As per Registrar General of India, Tamil Nadu has the second lowest infant mortality rate (20 per 1,000 live births) among all states in India, only behind Kerala (12).
In Odisha, the Mamata scheme is a universal maternity entitlement providing Rs 5,000 to all mothers. A found that although coverage was not universal, it was reasonably high.
Hence, proper implementation along with regular monitoring is the key to success in decreasing maternal and child mortality rates as well as improving health status of India.
Nutrition constitutes the foundation for human development and becomes more important during the period of pregnancy and lactation coupled with wage loss.
If the government wants to prove that it is committed to the cause of providing optimal nutritional status, especially to the most vulnerable communities, it has to implement the programme effectively. India’s DPSP recognises the need for maternity benefits in
Article 39 (e)- “The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing – that the health and strength of workers, men, women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter a vocation unsuited to their age or strength.”
Article 42 – “The State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.”
The introduction of maternity entitlements in the National Food Security Act (NFSA) has been hailed as a recognition by the State that all women are workers. Apart from wage loss compensation, maternity entitlements are recognised as a medium to promote exclusive breastfeeding for first 6 months. The conditional cash transfer scheme is to improve health behaviours, address the rights of all women as workers to have sufficient time for rest, recovery and child care during maternity. MBP is expected to deliver on these expectation.
Connecting the dots:
What is Maternity Benefit Programme? Critically analyse its implementation model based on a previous model it has been formulated.
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